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Neil Ramsay was 35 years old & was pondering retiring as a lawyer as he felt that he was burnt out. He was also a raging alcoholic, which wasn’t helping him. One Saturday morning caught a bus to the bottle shop and went to a secluded spot on the beach and drank the entire bottle in 2 hours whilst pondering life, as alcoholics do. In an alcoholic burst he went to the local library and typed out a letter of resignation for ‘personal reasons.’ He drunkenly figured he would get a good payout which would give him time to work out what to do. Did he want to remain a lawyer? Did he want to return to University? What would he study? He went to the post office and sent the letter. He remained confused. Would he regret resigning? ‘Would they ever take me back? They don’t know about my drinking & I’m at the top of my game.’

He had enough money to feed himself and to drink until his work money came through. The money came through the following week. After 6 months Neil was drinking 2 bottles of vodka a day. Friends steered clear because he couldn’t be warned and was incoherent.

With his days & nights filled with vodka, all he wanted to do was talk. He took to going to the pub next door to the bottle shop and chatting with the locals there. Most of them were drunks but they were someone for Neil to talk to. Before long, he was drinking 12 pints of Guinness before going to the bottle shop for his 2 bottles of vodka.

Something had to give.

After a year of each drunken day rolling into another year of 12 pints of Guinness & 2 bottles of vodka  Neil began vomiting blood occasionally. He paid little attention. He paid even less attention the the fact that he wasn’t passing water very often and when he did he was passing blood. Dark blood. He became bloated, reaching almost 100kg.

In a moment of drunken clarity that only an alcoholic can  know, Neil decided to stop drinking. He lay in bed shaking and sweating for the first day. On the second day he got up & was mindlessly watching TV, still shaking and sweating.

Then the inevitable happened.

He came to on the floor without a clue how he got there. Initially he couldn’t stand up. Eventually he made it to his feet but he was very wobbly. He looked around and didn’t recognise his apartment. He didn’t know where he was. Neil then walked to a wall and began talking to it. He was aware that he was doing it but didn’t stop. Then he began talking to a light bulb. Eventually he got a little clarity. He sat in his chair and noticed that his glasses were neatly folded on the table by his chair. He then noticed a red stain on his jeans. He had been incontinent.

Neil realised that something serious happened. He  had a shower and changed his clothes before calling for an ambulance. Before he got to the hospital, the ambulance crew determined, from Neils information, that he had suffered an alcoholic seizure. Alcoholic seizures occur after lengthy periods of excessive alcohol intake and occur 48-72 hours after cessation. Neil fitted the bill. Alcoholic seizures can  be fatal.

When he hit the hospital the staff hit panic stations. He was immediately catheterised, was given IV Omeprazole for gastric bleeding and had bloods taken. 3 worried Doctors entered Neils room 30 minutes later. They informed him that his kidneys were only working at 30%. The kidneys regulate your Potassium levels. Potassium regulates electrical impulses in the heart. It has a narrow window. Depending on what book you read the normal range is 5.0-5.5. If you hit 6.0, you have moderate impairment. Neils level was 7.2! He was told that he could have had a heart attack any time in the last 6 months without warning.

They placed ECG leads on  him where he was monitored from ICU. Occasionally a worried looking nurse would run in & ask if he was okay. Neil eventually asked a nurse what was going on? “You’re throwing off funny beats,” she said. This scared Neil. He was scared even more when a set of mobile paddles were bout to his bedside. He said to the nurse, “That serious, eh?” The nurse casually replied, “Yup. That serious.” They then ran IV water through his right arm at a rapid pace to flush out the Potassium. He was also given Resonium, which looks like beige toothpaste. Resonium binds Potassium to the gut. It is not a cure it was only to buy Neil time. If being flushed out by water didn’t work he would be placed on fluid tablets. If this didn’t work it was dialysis. Extremely inconvenient and sometimes painful.

After two weeks Neils Potassium returned to normal levels. When he arrived home he rang Drug & Alcohol situations. Luckily he got to speak to the boss. Neil told him his story, scars & all. The boss said, “You need rehab and soon. I’ll ring you back today.” Neil sat by the phone all day. When 4.45 came he thought, ‘Typical. He’s not going to ring.’ 10 minutes later the phone rang. It was the boss. He said, “You’re booked in for a 6 month programme. Are you ready? Neil replied, “I’ve never been more ready, Sir. Thank you so much.”

Neil successfully completed the programme. On returning home he wrote to his old legal firm. His old boss was more than happy to have him back. “Would 2 weeks be okay, Neil?” Neil replied, “That sounds perfect. Thank you.”

Neil returning to work was like putting  a hand in a glove. The staff welcomed him warmly & commented on well he looked. When they asked what he had been up to he would smirk & say, “You don’t want to know.”

 

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