An Illinois woman struggling with her transgender identity and bullying killed herself in February using a deadly seed from Thailand she bought online.
Now 22-year-old Lucia Anderson’’s mother, Natosha Anderson, hopes to warn others about the relatively unheard of but accessible pong pong seed, the New York Daily News reports.
"I don't know how I'm talking ... I really don't, I really don't, but I think it's important," Anderson told WLS-TV. "I don't want my son to die in vain.” The mother referred to Lucia using male pronouns and her birth name, Bernard McCalip.
“He said, 'I took a pong seed.' And I said, 'A what? What is that?'" Anderson added. "The police, the paramedics, they didn't even know."
While many have not heard of it, researchers explain more people have killed themselves with the "suicide seed" than any other plant.
While this is the first case doctors had heard of in the Chicago area, they want to warn others about the dangerous substance.
"I genuinely hope this is an isolated incident, but we need to be aware that it could potentially get worse. And we have to do everything we can to protect our children," said Dr. Shubhrajan Wadyal, a child psychiatrist.
"I can go online and purchase something for $5 -- $5 and that can literally devastate a family and kill someone," said Anderson.
While it’s easy to obtain, the slow death it causes is painful.
"I'm pretty sure he thought it was going to be easy, but it wasn't. He died in pain,” said Anderson. She added that her child had been vomiting for hours and complained she couldn’t feel her heart.
The suicide tree, scientific name Cerbera odollam, grows in India and southeast Asia and the seeds contain a poison that shuts down the heart.
"Cerberin appears to be one of the most lethal agents in this class of medications or natural plants," said Dr. Roderick Tung, a heart-rhythm specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, told WLS-TV.
Sadly, Lucia is not the first transgender person to try to kill herself.
A survey by Williams Institute at UCLA and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports around 40 percent of those who identify as transgender have attempted suicide.