Monday, October 11, 2010

Medical Mondays: Blinded by Poison


Hi all!

I'm back to Medical Mondays and sporting a terrific cold (likely the result of post-test-stress disorder, the other PTSD).

I'm going to answer my own question today.

I need to blind a character in my novel slowly by poisoning. The first thing that popped into my head was methanol poisoning.

What's methanol (or methyl alcohol)?

Basically, it's wood alcohol. I actually made this in eighth grade. We heated some slivers of wood inside a test tube over a bunsen burner, condensed the fumes that shot out the end of some tubing and lit it with a match. Talk about encouraging science and pyromania.

Voila! Wood fumes on fire! My hair survived and thank goodness all my lab partners.

Wood alcohol, or methanol, has been used as far back in ancient Egypt as an additive to embalm mummies. Nowadays, it's found in paint thinner, antifreeze, Sterno (the blue goop on fire under those hot buffet trays) and fuel additives.

In medicine, we occasionally encounter methanol poisoning in alcoholics who turn to paint thinner or Sterno thinking it's more convenient than going to the store and getting a liter of vodka.

Mistake.

Methanol, in as little as a shot-ful, can cause permanent blindness. It causes some deadly metabolic disturbances, namely metabolic acidoses, because the body turns the methanol to formadehyde and formic acid.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for my character, methanol wasn't widely available in the early 1800's, so it didn't work for me.

On to other ways to torture my poor character. I'm so mean! (Can you see me rubbing my hands together, cackling with evil?)

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical (or homicidal) advice! (See sidebar disclaimer)

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at


All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

45 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

fascinating...but the thought of someone drinking paint thinner makes me wanna hurl. Ewww. The smell alone should be enough to deter them!

Renae said...

You are my new hero...I'm so glad I'm not the only one out there that loves to torment their characters!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Whoa. Very interesting. But is it tasteless? Does it just take a small amount every day kind of thing?

Alesa Warcan said...

So, guessing from the first comments... I suppose the next post will be about addiction/alcoholism?
It looks like it may be useful. : j

So what are you going to go with? Hypothyroidism? Diabetic cataracts? Burns from a steam engine's burst boiler?

Liza said...

Scary to think that someone could be so desperate for a drink that they'd go for the paint thinner.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Hmmm, I can't think of anything that would make your character go slowly blind from being poisoned. At first I was thinking white lightning - because of, you know, the blind drunk thing. But I don't think that's slow and your character would know if someone was slipping him/her that stuff. Good luck finding a cause. =o)

Amie B said...

oh wow. i really hope a psychopath doesn't visit your blog today...

Psycho Path said...

@Amie B: What have I ever done to you?

Besides miss Lydia is more than capable of dealing with my brethren... Just look at her rubbing her hands and cackling with evil!

jbchicoine said...

...just a little disturbing...in fact, disturbing enough to remember...

Christina Lee said...

You are so MEAN ;--)

But wow, sad that people turn to that and it can cause blindness--EEK!

Deb Salisbury said...

Eek! That's scary!

One of these weeks, I hope you can post a poison for temporary blindness. I'm cruel to my characters, but it would be nice to have them back in the fight. Besides, methanol is too advanced for my culture.

Congratulations on surviving your tests! I'm glad to 'see' you again.

Slamdunk said...

Your content here is always interesting and informative Lydia. Keep up the good tormenting--I mean writing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love these!! Hope you're feeling better soon!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Interesting as always. Hope you feel better soon.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love Medical Mondays because I always learn something. I hope you'll let us know what you come up with for your character. I know it will be great. Hope your cold goes away soon.

Saumya said...

Soo awesome!! You know I love your medical Mondays so much because it appeals to my med student and writer sides :)

Jennee said...

This is such a cool idea...and so helpful for my non-homicide interests! Seriously though, I needed to learn this!

lbdiamond said...

What?! No methanol in the 1800's? What about moonshine??? No??? *wails*

As always, interesting stuff!

Sarah Enni said...

Okay, your original artwork just made me laugh so. hard. Love it!

Colene Murphy said...

I can't offer any help, but I really wish I had found you when I needed to know what chloroform smells like!(I bet you could have answered that faster than google...who kept trying to deter me from kidnapping..) I just love learning new things to torment characters and you seem very useful! :)

Alesa Warcan said...

Hmm... Mercury poisoning can cause blindness, but that would probably come with a number other symptoms you don't want...
Also true of lead poisoning...

Matthew Rush said...

But this would blind the character rather quickly anyway, right? So even if it had been available, it might have been too quick?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some people are desparate.

And you're over 400 followers now! Congratulations.

Patti Lacy said...

Lydia, I never dreamed when I started blogging about ten months ago that I would learn such things, ahem, meet such people.

An MD, no less!!
Wish you were here to hold my hand as I write the last chapter(s) of my medical doctor's story.
A renal specialist, no less. That kidney would sure be damaged by your poison.

Blessings,
P

Danyelle said...

*hugs* I hope you get feeling better soon!
And wow! It's amazing what a few chemicals can do. Chemistry was always so fun. While I didn't ever get to set wood fumes on fire, my teacher did light her desk on fire a few times to show us how different substances burn in different colors. Fun times. :D

Talli Roland said...

Interesting! I always wondered what exactly wood alcohol is.

Hope you feel better soon!

MT said...

Wow, I didn't even know a person could go blind by ingesting something. Your medical knowledge sure comes in handy for fictional purposes!
Feel better soon. :)

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Yuck to paint thinner! Kind of reminds me of kids who sniff cleaners and stuff. You sure like to torture your character :)

Sandy Shin said...

This is so fascinating, and scary -- the things you discover when you try to torture characters. (Speaking of which, I definitely need to find more innovative tormenting methods.)

notesfromnadir said...

I hope you haven't met any patients w/ this type of poisoning, it sounds so awful.

I really laughed at your disclaimer!

DL Hammons said...

Medical mondays has become one of my favorite scheduled blog postings! Always interesting. And you're simply a peach for doing this!! :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

I'm sure you'll come up with something. I do enjoy torturing my characters, poor things! And you have my curiosity piqued..

The Words Crafter said...

Wow, that's scary. I had a cousin or uncle who, during his bad years, drank hair tonic and something else, I forget. He was lucky and eventually got straight and remained so for the rest of his life....

Rachna Chhabria said...

Cant imagine you as evil, Lydia. What fun, to torture a character especially the antagonist. Will try it sometime.

Theresa Milstein said...

It's amazing to realize that all of those products are basically the same thing. How can alcoholics drink that? It must taste like poison. Imagine the desperation to resort to that.

I've missed Medical Mondays. Glad you're back!

Bathwater said...

If the blindness didn't get them didn't also cause some other effects if I remember correctly? I'm sick too btw. I hate it haven't been sick in what seems like years.

Janna Qualman said...

You are brilliant, Lydia. I'm sure you know, but I just had to say it. :)

Kate said...

i love this cartoon

Jai Joshi said...

Yikes! I'm glad I'm not in the habit of drinking paint thinner.

I'm in a dread of suspense for your character. The poor thing!

Jai

The Red Angel said...

Ooh, I hope you get well soon! *gives you a virtual bunch of balloons* Be sure to drink lots of water and have Vitamin C. :D

Your poor character! Though I suppose since you're feeling ill he/she ought to bow down to your commands. xD

And thank you for the sweet comment on my blog. :)

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Julie Musil said...

I cringe at the thought of someone drinking paint thinner to get drunk. Ugh!

This reminds me of a story my 8th grader read last year in class. It was about someone who died, and this was the possible murder weapon. Not sure if it was the same stuff, but it sounds familiar.

Totally fascinating!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Lydia! So great we connected today. I'll be following your blog with interest! Your medical explanations are much more interesting than WebMD! :-)

WritingNut said...

Oh wow... that's just cruel... AND awesome! Very creative :)

I just love Medical Mondays!

Jennie Bailey said...

Yay - I'm so glad you're back with Medical Mondays! I've missed them (and so has The Hubster - it's the only blog he will read with me!). Supposedly my grandfather drank gasoline when he couldn't his hands on a drink - is that even possible? I think someone in the family made it up and it just got repeated as the truth. Good to have you blogging again!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Diabolical. I like it :) I'm going to have to remember this.