18 litres a day for Coke addict
Paulette Wyatt ended her Coca-Cola addiction by pouring all 30 bottles she had in her house down the sink.
The Blenheim woman, who says she used to drink up to 18 litres of Coke a day, understands how an Invercargill woman could drink so much of the beverage it contributed to her death.
Last week a pathologist told an Invercargill inquest that Natasha Harris, 30, died of cardiac arrhythmia, agreeing with a coroner that her daily Coca-Cola consumption of between 4.5 and 8 litres had probably caused it.
Mrs Wyatt vividly knows the pitfalls associated with such cravings.
"I used to drink 18 litres of coke a day about 18 years ago," said the 38-year-old mother of four. "I stopped drinking about 15 years ago. I just built up to it, just got used to it. It's a mad thing to do, a mad thing to do."
Mrs Wyatt said she was the victim of an attack when she was 16, and believed that this event led to, and fed, her Coke addiction.
"It's all mental. If something happens in your life, a lot of people turn to drugs or alcohol, and for a lot of bigger people they turn to food. We're all like it."
Mrs Wyatt still struggles to believe how addicted she became.
"We had bottles for Africa – and I didn't even know I was drinking that much. I even had a bottle of Coke beside my bed so when I'd wake up in the middle of the night I'd have a glass of Coke."
I can't believe I drank that much, that I could even fit it in there," she said.
Apart from weight gain and the odd bout of irritability she experienced from not having her daily dose, the effect of the excessive consumption went largely unnoticed at the time.
Mrs Wyatt's weight shot up more than 100kg during those three dark years, from 92kg to 198kg at her heaviest, and all the while she continued the habit.
However she got a wake up call one day while drinking a glass of Coke. She felt pain shooting up her arm and through the back of her shoulder. On her mother's advice, she drove up to Wairau Hospital for a check-up.
"I thought I was having a heart attack, but it wasn't – it was just a scare." They advised me not to have any more caffeine.
"I made the decision myself," she said.
"I didn't do it slowly. I had boxes of it sitting there in the house, and I tipped all 30 bottles of it down the sink.
"It felt good. All I had in my head was, `I don't want to die'. If I carried on the way I had been it would have killed me."
Migraine headaches were a part of Mrs Wyatts' withdrawal symptoms, leaving her bedridden for three days.
"It took a good week to come right again. I just kept downing the water to flush it out of my system."
She could no longer have caffeine as it would cause heart murmurs.
About three years ago Mrs Wyatt paid $18,000 for a gastric bypass in Hamilton, after her knees began to dislocate because of her weight.
A diet high in protein and low in sugar had helped keep her weight under 100kg. Husband Andrew had been "fantastic" throughout her ordeal.
"The best thing I did was give up the Coke and get a gastric bypass."
Her children, Troy Stephens, 19, Connor Wyatt, 15, Jacqueline Wyatt, 14, and Kaleb Wyatt, 11, were never allowed to drink Coke.
The Marlborough Express