As It Happens

Chicago man says hot sauce saved his life

After sampling the extremely hot sauce, Randy Schmitz had a seizure. That's when doctors discovered a brain tumour.
Randy Schmitz with a bottle of the hot sauce he sampled before his seizure. (Courtesy of Randy Schmitz)

Randy Schmitz nearly died. There was some very hot sauce involved. But it's not what you think. This sauce -- it saved his life.

Schmitz was on vacation in Myrtle Beach last summer with his family. They went into a hot sauce emporium called The Pepper Palace. That's where Schmitz decided to take a challenge and sample Flashbang. The makers bill it as the world's hottest sauce.

He signed a waiver, dipped a toothpick in the sauce, tasted it and then went five minutes without drinking water.

"It was pretty darn hot, even though it was just a very, very tiny amount," Schmitz tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "I was getting a real headache. I was just feeling really nauseous. So my wife walks me outside on the boardwalk and has me sit on a bench. Next thing I know I'm in a hospital on a stretcher covered in vomit and I had no clue what happened."

(Courtesy of Randy Schmitz)

What happened was that Schmitz had a seizure. He'd never had one before, so doctors gave him an MRI. That's when they discovered a malignant brain tumour.

The seizure was linked to the tumour. But the tumour had been growing for years without Schmitz having any inkling it was there. So it's likely that the sauce triggered the seizure.

"Technically there's no 100 percent proof that it was the sauce that caused it," Schmitz says. "But everyone, the doctors, everyone involved thinks that it did because it would just be a crazy, weird coincidence if I happened to randomly have it at that time."

Randy Schmitz after surgeons removed his malignant brain tumour. (Courtesy of Randy Schmitz)

His doctors were able to remove the tumour. He's since had five weeks of radiation. He's now in his last month of chemotherapy -- and he's cancer-free.

Schmitz credits the sauce with saving his life.

"I'm so thankful it happened because, if it didn't, the tumour would have just continued to grow and I don't know if it would have been able to have been removed," he says. "I don't know if I would be alive a few years from now."

Randy Schmitz was able to get married just as he was finishing up his radiation treatment. (Courtesy of Randy Schmitz)

Schmitz wrote to the Pepper Palace to tell them what happened. They put him on their "Wall of Flame." And they sent him some souvenirs -- including a box of Flashbang sauce.

He has not tried it again yet.