When Randy Schmitz attempted to try one of the world's hottest hot sauces, he knew there was a potential risk -- especially when he was required to sign a waiver before sampling it.
What he didn't expect was that he'd get violently sick and black out minutes after sampling the sauce or that it would ultimately save his life.
Schmitz, 30, of Chicago, vacationed with his fiancé and family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last summer when they entered the Pepper Palace, a chain dedicated to spicy condiments.
One of the sauces for sale was "Flashbang," which combines Carolina Reaper, scorpion, Jolokia, and habanero peppers into a mix so potent that brave customers must sign a release before tasting it.
"It was pretty darn hot, but since I didn't have a huge amount of it, I got over it in a few minutes," he said in a recent letter he wrote to the Pepper Palace. "My sister was about to take the challenge and sign her name too. I told her to wait cause I wasn't feeling so well."
Schmitz stepped out of the store and sat on a bench.
"The next thing I knew I had woken up on a stretcher in a hospital room, covered in vomit," he said in the letter.
His mother saw her son twitching and shaking violently outside the store. Doctors determined later he'd had a seizure.
Schmitz was rushed to an emergency room where an MRI scan of Schmitz' brain detected a cancerous tumor in its early stages.
He flew home and within a few days, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, removed a malignant tumor on Schmitz' left frontal lobe, according to the Chicago Tribune. Doctors said the treatment is complete.
Schmitz told the Pepper Palace the letter that he believes that sampling Flashbang triggered the seizure that ultimately saved his life.
"The doctors did not know how long the cancerous tumor had been there and they said if it did not get activated, it would have just kept growing and expanding. I had surgery, got the tumor removed, went on radiation and chemotherapy, and I am now cancer free!! Your Flashbang Pepper Sauce SAVED MY LIFE!!!!
Surgeon Jeffrey Raizer, medical director of neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says spicy peppers could plausibly induce a seizure.
"If you have a lot of hot sauce and you're sweating a lot, people can have dehydration and it can cause seizures," Raizer told the Chicago Tribune. "If you eat a habanero pepper, it's a big jolt to your system."
Schmitz, a special education job coach, responded so well to the treatment that his wedding wasn't postponed.
The Pepper Palace has sent a belated wedding gift to the couple: A year's supply of hot sauce, including the brand that started it all.
However, he hasn't had the guts to try it again, because he's "a little bit nervous," LonelyPlanet.com reports.
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