Denis Duthie was celebrating his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with drinks when his world suddenly went dark. As Stuff.co.nz reported, following a four-hour drinking spree — involving vodka on ice and whiskey — at his home on New Zealand‘s North Island, the 65-year-old chef tutor discovered he had gone blind.
“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,” Duthie, who tutors at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, told the New Zealand Herald. “I was fumbling around the bedroom for the light switch but … I’d just gone completely blind.”
(MORE: What Are You Drinking? Results from Zagat’s Debut Mixology Survey)
Duthie then decided to try to sleep off his blindness. But unlike typical alcohol-related blackouts, which end upon awakening, Duthie’s darkness persisted when he opened his eyes the next morning, so his wife took him to Taranaki Base Hospital. Physicians whisked the still-blind man away for surgery upon arrival, the Herald reported.
“I don’t remember much after I arrived in hospital,” Duthie said. “I know the doctor told my wife to say goodbye because they didn’t think I’d be coming out again.”
Doctors suspected that Duthie was suffering from formaldehyde poisoning, which occurs when methanol — a common byproduct of home-brewed alcoholic beverages — metabolizes into formaldehyde, the Herald reported. In his case, they believed that the alcohol he had ingested reacted with the five medications he was taking to manage his diabetes, stuff.co.nz reported. Treatment for this type of poisoning involves administering ethanol, which is commonly found in alcoholic beverages and prevents the formation of the harmful compound.
There was just one problem: the hospital lacked enough ethanol to serve as an effective antidote. All hope was not lost for Duthie, though, thanks to the medical staff’s decision to improvise. They sent the hospital’s registrar to purchase a $55 bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey from a local liquor store, and Duthie received a whiskey drip to his stomach through a tube routed first through his nose, the Herald reported.
Five days later, Duthie awoke in the intensive care unit with his sight restored, feeling “good as gold.” Although he lost 14 kg (almost 31 pounds) in the hospital, he told the Herald that he was impressed with the creative cure.
“I thought it was pretty bloody good — I’m alive,” he said. “The hospital was absolutely awesome. Couldn’t have been better.”
Since his hospital visit four months ago, Duthie — now on 14 different kinds of diabetes medication — told stuff.co.nz that his vision is “clear as a bell” and that he can see better than he could before his brush with blindness. The experience has also opened his eyes to a healthier lifestyle, which includes walking daily and eating a modified diet. He also hasn’t had a drink since. He’s hoping to attend a reunion of his army buddies in February, although he says he will be “taking it easy.”
Duthie told stuff.co.nz that he wanted to tell his story to increase awareness, especially in diabetics, of the dangers of binging on alcohol.
“Curtail your drinking,” he warned. “Don’t do what I did or else you’ll be dead.”