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Tourist goes blind after drinking 'vodka' abroad

Cosmopolitan logo Cosmopolitan 10/05/2017 Catriona Harvey-Jenner
The party resort of Zante, on Zakynthos © Getty The party resort of Zante, on Zakynthos

When 22-year-old British tourist Hannah Powell headed off on a summer holiday to the Greek party resort of Zante last year, she knew it was going to be a boozy week filled with cheap cocktails. What she didn't know, however, was that the alcohol contained in those cocktails would be so dangerous it would leave her blind.

During one night out, an organised bar crawl on the island of Zakynthos, Hannah consumed eight vodka and orange cocktails before heading to bed at 3am, but when she awoke the next day, she recalls feeling unwell. Hannah opted to head back to the hotel room to sleep while her friends went out that evening, and she didn't wake up until the middle of the afternoon the following day.

Speaking to The Sun about her holiday-turned-nightmare, Hannah said: "I slept all night. The next morning [my friends] tried to wake me but I was still exhausted.

"I’d never felt so tired. I went straight back to sleep. At about 4pm they woke me up.

I said 'Why are we sitting in the dark? Put the lights on'. They said 'What are you on about? The curtains are open'.

Terrifyingly, Hannah was unable to see.

"I just fell to my knees," she recalled. "I was blind. It was devastating."

It turned out the so-called vodka Hannah had been drinking during her night out actually contained methanol, a deadly chemical which left her in intensive care. Her kidneys were failing, leaving her needing dialysis, and her eyesight had been irreparably damaged.

It's thought that the cheap alcohol sold by the bars and clubs on the strip in Zante at the time were supplied by criminal gangs from Albania and Bulgaria, which was why it was laced with the highly toxic chemical commonly used to make anti-freeze.

A British tourist has gone blind after drinking dangerous 'vodka' abroad © Getty A British tourist has gone blind after drinking dangerous 'vodka' abroad Hannah's health was in such jeopardy as a result of having consumed the dangerous substance, that she would have had to remain on dialysis for the rest of her life if her mother, Christine, hadn't volunteered to donate one of her own kidneys. Luckily, Hannah's mother was a match, and didn't think twice before donating the organ to her seriously ill daughter in an operation that will go ahead later on this year.

"My mum is my hero. Her transplant might be the lifeline I need for getting some kind of life back," Hannah, from Teesside, told The Sun.

Her damaged eyesight, on the other hand, isn't something she can do anything about. "I’ve only got ten per cent vision in my right eye and no sight at all in my left," she explained, describing how she can "only [see] dark shadows against a grey fog, and that’s just from the corner of one eye."

Somehow, Hannah's two friends - both called Lauren - managed to escape the methanol-laced alcohol with minimal side effects. One began vomiting following the night out, while the other suffered severe stomach cramps after returning home from the holiday and was signed off work for a week.

Hannah has managed to regain some of her independence despite her damaged sight, having returned to work as an administrator for a few hours a week, but she still feels regretful over what's happened.

"I feel angry towards whoever put that methanol in my drink because it’s turned my life upside down. I’d never holiday in Zante or anywhere like that again but I’d go back out there to warn others off the dangers of cheap booze," she told The Sun.

"My advice to people going to party resorts this year is find out what you’re drinking. If it looks cheap, don’t have it. I hope the hell I’ve been through can prevent others suffering the same fate."



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