Last year, during his vacation in Portugal, Jamie Dornan, the renowned star of Fifty Shades of Grey, found himself rushed to the hospital with alarming symptoms resembling a heart attack. The cause? Toxic caterpillars that inhabit golf courses in the southern region of Portugal, as revealed by his friend Gordon Smart on the January 12 episode of BBC’s “The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected” podcast.
Dornan, 41, and Smart, 43, had initially enjoyed a splendid day playing golf and indulging in wine and espresso martinis. However, their joy turned to dread the next day when both friends began feeling unwell. Smart experienced tingling sensations in his left hand and arm, which they initially attributed to the aftermath of a night of heavy drinking.
Concerns escalated when Smart, the son of a doctor, passed out in an Uber en route to the hospital, awakening later in a hospital bed after receiving treatment. Astonishingly, after Smart’s discharge, Dornan’s condition deteriorated, leading to his hospitalization.
Dornan recounted, “My left arm went numb, my left leg went numb, my right leg went numb, and I found myself in the back of an ambulance,” emphasizing the severity of their unexpected health crisis.
The mystery behind their illness unraveled a week later when a doctor inquired if they had come into contact with caterpillars during their golf excursion. It was then revealed that Portugal’s pine processionary moth caterpillars, known for causing harm to dogs and even triggering heart attacks in middle-aged men, had affected the duo.
These caterpillars possess thaumetopoein, an irritating protein in their hairs, which can lead to severe rashes, skin and eye irritation, and symptoms akin to a heart attack in humans. Smart reflected on their fortunate escape, acknowledging that they had unknowingly brushed against processionary caterpillars, escaping a potentially life-threatening situation.
The incident serves as a cautionary tale, shedding light on the unsuspected dangers that can arise during leisure activities, even in picturesque destinations like Portugal.