Whisky used to save blind drunk man

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
Denis Duthie was tube-fed Johnnie Walker whisky in Taranaki Base Hospital after a heavy drinking session put him in intensive care
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
BEST MEDICINE: Taranaki chef and diabetic Denis Duthie was tube-fed Johnnie Walker whisky in Taranaki Base Hospital after a heavy drinking session put him in intensive care.

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For Denis Duthie a bottle of whisky was exactly what the doctors ordered.

And one even rushed off to the bottle store for the vital "medicine."

Mr Duthie, a Taranaki chef, 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.

In July this year Mr Duthie, a diabetic of 20 years, was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit after he went blind while drinking at a 50th wedding anniversary party.

Mr Duthie supplied the Taranaki Daily News with his Taranaki District Health Board medical records outlining his unusual hospital treatment.

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.

That whisky was then infused into Mr Duthie's stomach via a nasogastric tube.

Mr Duthie said it was his understanding that his diabetes medication mixed with the alcohol, triggering the reaction, rather than formaldehyde poisoning.

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

She would not comment any further.

Mr Duthie, a chef tutor at the Western Institute of Taranaki Technology, said he was sharing his story so people, especially diabetics, were aware of the risks associated with heavy drinking.

He said he had been drinking Red Square Russian vodka on ice - a gift from his cooking students.

That was followed by a few whiskies as well, he said.

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.

He remained in IC for more than a week.

After 10 days he had his eyesight back and was in a stable condition so was discharged from hospital.

Mr Duthie said he remembered only small details of his time in ICU.

One of the few things he did recall was the doctor telling his wife she should say her last goodbyes, he said.

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Mr Duthie said he lost 14 kilograms in his first five days in intensive care.

Four months on and his sight was now "clear as a bell", he said.

"I can see better now than I did before I went in."

Mr Duthie said he was taking five different types of medication for his diabetes when he went blind.

He was now on 14 different types of medication.

The care he was given by the doctors and nurses at TBH was outstanding.

"I thought chefs work long hours but they (medical staff) do a hell of a lot more hours compared to us."

The medical records said Mr Duthie was a "happy drinker".

Mr Duthie said he had not touched a drop of alcohol since the incident, not that he wasn't allowed to.

But he would be having a tipple or two in February when he and his old army buddies caught up for a reunion.

"I'll be taking it easy."

Since the hospital scare Mr Duthie had improved his diet and was now walking every day, he said.

His advice to all the drinkers out there: "Curtail your drinking.

"Don't do what I did or else you'll be dead."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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