An Adelaide family has reminded Australians about the dangers of alcohol, after their father was diagnosed with chronic liver damage.
Dhanapati Kandel was a heavy drinker. The 55-year-old, who had been drinking since he was 15, had progressed to consuming a bottle of whisky almost daily before his lifestyle caught up with him.
Kandel was on holiday in Australia from Nepal when he woke up at midnight on January 27 to use the bathroom, and suddenly collapsed.
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“He didn’t make it to the toilet, he was vomiting blood, about two litres of blood,” his daughter-in-law Shristi Sapkota said.
Sapkota and her husband are now looking after Kandel at their family home in Adelaide.
She described how her family went into a panic when they found him on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood.
“My mother-in-law was scared, she’s still in shock … she was saying ‘please help dad, please help dad’,” Sapkota said.
Sapkota said the day before the medical episode, Kandel had complained of a sore throat.
In hospital, doctors told him he had liver cirrhosis or chronic liver damage.
Dhanapati Kandel was rushed to hospital after vomiting blood. Credit: Supplied
Liver cirrhosis results in permanent scarring to the liver which subsequently blocks blood vessels, that can then haemorrhage.
During his medical episode, several of Kandel’s blood vessels ruptured.
Sapkota said her father-in-law, who doesn’t speak English, regrets his drinking habits. He had been sober for a year before his medical episode, but says he wished he quit earlier.
“I want to live for my children and grandchildren,” Kandel said, through his daughter-in-law.
“I will look after my diet and never drink alcohol, even though I stopped drinking years back … I would have done it (earlier) if I knew it (liver damage) was happening.”
University of Adelaide senior lecturer and gastroenterologist Dr Asif Chinnaratha said excessive drinking was one of the top three causes of liver cirrhosis in Australia.
He said it was not uncommon for people with liver cirrhosis to be left undiagnosed, until they experienced serious symptoms.
But he warned, if cirrhosis is left untreated it can be fatal.
“They (drinkers) might not have any (early symptoms) apart from tiredness (or) lethargy,” Chinnaratha said.
“Once they develop liver failure, they develop various symptoms (such as) blood vomiting. Other common symptoms are developing fluid in the belly, and sometimes they get confused because the liver is not functioning — the toxins are not removed from their body so they go to the brain and that causes confusion.
“Another common symptom is jaundice, which is yellowness around the (white) of the eyes.”
Chinnaratha said while the impacts of cirrhosis can be managed through medication, lifestyle changes or a liver transplant, the damage is not reversible.
Dhanapati Kandel (second from left) and his wife (second from right) were staying in Adelaide with their son (far right) and daughter-in-law (far left). Credit: Supplied
The Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend men and women drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than four standard drinks on any one day. Just under 27 per cent of adults aged 18 years and over exceeded the guideline in 2022.
National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction director Professor Jacqueline Bowden said more needed to be done to educate the public on the risks of alcohol.
“Alcohol is a toxin, a neurotoxin, which means it is damaging to the system and to the brain, and it’s been linked to over 200 diseases, including seven types of cancer,” Bowden said.
“We lose around 6000 lives each year due to alcohol consumption, and it is a class one carcinogen, but unfortunately, we know around half of the community and half of adults aren’t aware of that link.”
She also advocated for the government to crack down on alcohol advertising.
“We need to do more around reducing alcohol sponsorship in sport, we need to be thinking about what people are seeing online and restricting that more … and we have to reduce availability,” Bowden said.
Kandel’s family hope to schedule his surgery for mid-February, but are anxious the 55-year-old’s travel insurance won’t cover the cost if it is done in a public hospital.
An online fundraiser has been launched to help the family raise funds to cover the cost of his medical bills.