When two friends set off for a 10-day holiday in Bali last week, they were oblivious to the fact they would be returning home with a horror story to tell.
Brianna Scott and Katie Linane, both aged 21 from Ballarat in Victoria, hadn’t travelled to the Indonesian holiday island before but were aware of warnings against drinking free-poured drinks.
Still, they didn’t give their choice of beverage too much thought when ordering a cocktail at a popular five-star restaurant and bar.
As luck would have it, the drinks served to them contained a substance that left them regretting their decision in a big way. They later learned their suffering was likely caused by methanol.
The substance is often deliberately and illegally added to alcoholic beverages as a cheaper alternative to ethanol, which was most common in countries where legitimate alcohol might be too expensive, according to the Methanol Institute.
The pair headed to a spot popular among young Australians on Saturday night (local time), and polished off their final cocktail about 11pm.
Before long they were riddled with crippling symptoms including loss of vision, vertigo, vomiting, disorientation, diarrhoea and fatigue.
Thinking they were suffering from the effect of too much alcohol, they opted to rest and get as much sleep as their bodies demanded.
“At first we though it was just a horrible hangover. We had vertigo, Katie’s vision was blurry and I honestly couldn’t see much. I was seeing stars. I thought it must be a bit of heat stroke,” Ms Scott told Yahoo News Australia.
“We were power spewing and we had the runs. It wouldn’t stop, we just went back to bed to sleep because that’s all we could do. We were completely dysfunctional.”
Even after napping for seven hours, the girls were still sick and were unable to “use the phone without shutting one eye and holding the phone an arm length away”.
“Neither of us sleep this much ever. We are early risers,” Ms Scott said.
She had some food delivered to the villa and was able to keep it down, but the same could not be said for Ms Linane.
“Katie woke up and wouldn’t touch her food, she still had runny bowels, and her eyesight had worsened. She immediately went into hysterics because she has 20/20 vision and could really tell it wasn’t okay.”
The pair continued to fall in and out of sleep, and in the brief moments they were awake, neither were showing signs of improving so turned to Facebook for answers.
“We weren’t very talkative to each other the few first times we woke up from the naps because we were so disorientated. We couldn’t do anything without feeling really nauseous.”
That’s when they came across Colin Ahern, who runs a page called Just Don't Drink Spirits In Bali, who told them about how vodka can act as a metabolic blocker to methanol.
He arranged for a woman to deliver a legitimate bottle of vodka to the girls, and slowly, their symptoms began to improve.
Still, Ms Linane’s vision had not returned to normal and one eye was worse than the other, so after contacting their insurance company, they set off to a hospital the insurance company would cover.
They struck another roadblock though and because there was no eye specialist there at the time, they were sent off to another hospital, which too offered little in the way of treatment options.
With the methanol likely almost completely out of their system, they returned back to their accomodation and hoped for the best.
“All up we were out of action for three or four days of our holiday because of two cocktails. It was not worth it and we wish we could take it back,” Ms Scott said.
They remain in Bali for the duration of their holiday, but have changed their approach to ordering drinks.
“Our advice - (bottled) Smirnoff and Bintang. Don’t be a fool and think that people just warn you for the sake of telling you what to do, it’s for your own safety. Please just don’t drink spirits on Bali.”
“Also, get a local SIM card so you don’t rack up your phone bill speaking to insurance companies.”
Last month a teenager from Perth was also nearly killed after suffering methanol poisoning in Bali.
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