Whisky Saves New Zealand Man’s Eyesight after being Blinded by Vodka

NEW YORK | Monday, December 3rd, 2012 4:17am EDT

The 65-year-old Taranaki man suddenly went blind when vodka he had been drinking reacted with his diabetes medication. He regained his sight only after hospital staff administered expensive whisky.

Whisky Saves New Zealand Man Eyesight after being Blinded by Vodka 01

Denis Duthie suddenly went blind after vodka he had been drinking reacted with his diabetes medication. Photo: Jur 1989/Flickr

As any hardened drinkers know, too much alcohol can severely impair your sight.

And as Ernest Hemingway often talked of drinking himself “blind” in ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ but for one New Zealand man, fiction became reality after a mix of vodka and diabetes medication turned him sightless.

Fortunately for Denis Duthie, highly skilled doctors had the perfect remedy on hand: Whiskey.

The 65-year-old Taranaki man suddenly went blind when vodka he had been drinking reacted with his diabetes medication. He regained his sight only after hospital staff administered expensive whisky.

Mr Duthie, a catering tutor at New Plymouth’s Western Institute of Technology, had Johnnie Walker whisky tube-fed directly into his body by doctors at Taranaki Base Hospital after a heavy vodka drinking session took a horrible turn.

After about four hours of drinking he went to the bathroom and suddenly couldn’t see a thing, Mr Duthie said. When he walked into a bedroom in his home everything suddenly went black.

“I thought it had got dark and I’d missed out on a bit of time but it was only about half-past-three in the afternoon,” he told the New Zealand Herald. “I was fumbling around the bedroom for the light switch but … I’d just gone completely blind.”

He hoped he would be able to sleep it off, but after waking the next morning still unable to see a thing he went to Taranaki Base Hospital.

Doctors immediately decided he needed to go to surgery straight away. The situation was so serious that doctors even told his wife to say goodbye before he went into theatre.

“I know the doctor told my wife to say goodbye because they didn’t think I’d be coming out again,” said Denis Duthie.

The Stuff reports that the notes say doctors suspected the 65-year-old was suffering from formaldehyde poisoning and they decided to start alcohol infusion into his stomach via a tube through his nose.

But with no medical alcohol in the hospital a medical registrar had to pop down to the liquor store and buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker for the infusion, which retails for about $55 a bottle.

That whisky was then infused into Mr Duthie’s stomach via a nasogastric tube. “It was good whiskey, yeah,” Duthie said later. “I woke up five days later and I could see as soon as I could open my eyes.”

According to the New Zealand Herald, the surgeon later told him a strong smell like nail polish remover had come out of the incision in his stomach.

In his first five days of treatment the man lost about 30 pounds. He went from taking five types of medication to now taking 14.

Denis was feeling “good as gold” and was extremely impressed by the hospital’s improvised treatment.

Taranaki District Health Board spokeswoman Sue Carrington would only say the patient was treated appropriately for the condition he came in with.

Auckland City Hospital intensive care medicine specialist Tony Smith said: “There are two potential ways of treatment for methanol poisoning: one is to give intravenous ethanol through a drip, but that is not available in all hospitals.”

“There is also nothing wrong with supplying that alcohol via the gastro-intestinal tract, which is what they’ve chosen to do in this circumstance, and that’s a well established treatment. If the patient’s awake they can just drink it,” he added.

Mr Duthie said he had not touched a drop of alcohol since the incident, not that he wasn’t allowed to. His advice to all the drinkers out there: “Curtail your drinking.”

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