We all fell sick, and when I checked the mushroom book it said 'deadly'

A BEST-SELLING novelist who accidentally served potentially lethal wild mushrooms to his wife, sister and brother-in-law has spoken for the first time of his ordeal.

• The Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans, who is awaiting a kidney transplant

Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, said it was a "momentary suspension of doubt" that prevented him checking the mushrooms he had picked on a Scottish estate.

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Two years on, he, his wife - singer-songwriter Charlotte Gordon Cumming - and brother-in-law Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming are all awaiting kidney transplants, having suffered serious illness after ingesting the fungi. Evans's six-year-old son Finlay, and Sir Alastair's three children avoided eating the mushrooms on 23 August, 2008.

Speaking about the incident for the first time, Evans said he was convinced he was going to die after mistakenly picking deadly webcap mushrooms, instead of edible ceps.

Evans said: "I took the mushrooms back to the house, showed them around and the general comment was, 'Fantastic'. So I cut them up and cooked them in butter and parsley. The four adults ate them. They tasted slightly bitter, but Alastair and I had lots, the two women not so many. Luckily none of the four children wanted to try them. Doctors told us afterwards that if they had, the mushrooms would have killed them."

Evans was visiting his brother-in-law's 13,000-acre Altyre House estate, in Moray, when the mix-up happened. Kidney damage begins quickly from ingesting the mushrooms, but symptoms may not appear for up to two weeks.

"I am naturally a very cautious person and always on the lookout for danger," said 60-year-old Evans. "I have picked mushrooms for years and, if I am the slightest bit unsure, always carefully check in at least one book.

"There was a book in the kitchen but, tragically, we never consulted it. It was a momentary suspension of doubt."

Evans said he went for a run after lunch and a swim in the river. The next morning, Sir Alastair and Charlotte began vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, and Evans started feeling unwell.

He said: "It was obvious that it was something we'd eaten and picked out some mushrooms we'd discarded from the bin.

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"I looked them up in the book. There it was, a perfect match to the one in my hand and labelled 'deadly poisonous'.

"It was very scary, but we didn't panic. Instead I rang the botanical gardens in Edinburgh and was told to seek urgent medical help. The GP came, by which time our health was deteriorating very fast. He sent us to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin."The doctors there realised the problem was our kidneys and the next morning we were transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where they have a renal unit.

"I was horrifically sick and although I was given various drugs, nothing worked and at night I'd sit on the bed and, because I had nothing inside me, heave up blood and bile. I thought I was going to die."

Evans must endure five hours of dialysis every other day to stay alive and has been on a waiting list for a transplant since early 2009.

Sir Alastair is also on the transplant list, while Evans's wife Charlotte, 52, will need a new kidney in future. Only Sir Alastair's wife, Lady Louisa, does not need dialysis.

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