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After a going blind after a vodka bender to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Denis Duthie was given a bottle of Whisky as a cure, stuff.co.nz reports. And yes, it was doctors that gave him the Whisky — directly into his stomach.Duthie recounted his party disaster:
After about four hours of drinking he went to the bathroom and suddenly couldn’t see a thing, Mr Duthie said.
“All of a sudden I just went bloody blind,” he said.
He was put to bed and after waking up the next day, still unable to see, his wife took him straight to hospital.
“I was in a bit of a panic.”
Mr Duthie was admitted to the intensive care unit where he underwent the unorthodox treatment.
The blindness came from an excess of formaldehyde in Duthie’s blood, the doctors said, though Duthie himself says the issue was his diabetes medication interacting with the alcohol he had ingested.
The formaldehyde, which the doctors said caused a nail-polish type odor to emanate from Duthie’s surgical incisions the New Zealand Herald said, comes from the metabolism of methanol, a poisonous alcohol. The treatment for the condition is ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, but the hospital was out of the medical grade ethanol.
The ethanol in the liquor competes with the methanol for liver enzymes, slowing the conversion of the methanol into the toxic byproducts, which are what actually cause the damage to the eyes and rest of the body.
To cure Duthie, the doctors at Taranaki Base Hospital’s intensive care wing rushed out to the liquor store to procure a bottle of Johnnie Walker for their patient. He was in the ICU for 10 days, and eventually regained his eyesight.
My guess is that the vodka, or something else, that Duthie ingested, contained too much methanol. Methanol can be a byproduct of the alcohol production process, for example it’s the reason why making and selling moonshine in illegal.
Methanol poisoning, even small amounts, can cause blindness and even death. A 2002 report tells the story of a fire-eater who accidentally ingested methanol-containing alcohol that he used to light his fire-stick, because of a sudden hiccup during a performance. He survived the experience but his vision was permanently damaged. Duthie is lucky to have regained his vision.