It sounds like something out of an episode of "House": A man, mysteriously struck blind from drinking too much vodka, has his vision miraculously restored after doctors prescribe him a bottle of scotch. But this actually did happen. Whisky, it turns out, really can cure blindness.
The tale begins with 65-year-old Denis Duthie, a chef tutor from New Zealand's North Island. It was his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and Duthie wanted to do the celebration up right. A drinking spree ensued, mostly involving copious amounts of vodka. Four hours later, Duthie lost track of time and blacked out.
"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 told to the New Zealand Herald. "I was fumbling around the bedroom for the light switch but … I’d just gone completely blind."
In other words, this was no ordinary alcohol-induced black out. Duthie's world had gone completely dark: he was struck blind. Hoping that his ailment would be cured with a good night's rest, Duthie decided to try and sleep it off. But when he woke the next morning and still couldn't see, his wife whisked him off to nearby Taranaki Base Hospital.
Upon Duthie's arrival at the hospital, baffled doctors wasted no time wheeling him off for surgery.
"I don't remember much after I arrived in hospital," said Duthie. "I know the doctor told my wife to say goodbye because they didn't think I'd be coming out again."
The first indication of what was wrong with Duthie came after doctors made an incision in his stomach, which filled the room with the smell of nail polish. Doctors immediately suspected formaldehyde poisoning. It turns out that the vodka Duthie had been drinking was reacting with his diabetes medications, transforming the resultant chemical mixture into formaldehyde, a toxic compound that is occasionally used as an embalming agent.
Treatment for this kind of poisoning involves administering ethanol, or pure alcohol. But there was just one problem: the hospital was all out of ethanol. So the doctors had to improvise. They sent the hospital's registrar out to a local liquor store to fetch a $55 bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch. The whisky was then dripped directly into Duthie's stomach through a tube.
Five days later, Duthie was feeling brand new. Not only did the whisky detoxify the formaldehyde, but it also miraculously restored his sight. In fact, to hear Duthie tell it, the whisky may even have improved his eyesight.
"I can see better now than I did before I went in," he claimed.
As for why the doctors opted to pitch in for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black as opposed to some cheaper whisky, no indication was given. Perhaps they just figured that if Duthie hadn't made it, at least he would have gone out drippin' on the good stuff.
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