Armando Medina’s story — How one drink changed his life forever

Armando Medina

In the fall of 2020, tattoo artist Armando Medina was vacationing with his wife Anihoa Garate in the Dominican Republic. The US-based Venezuelan couple had booked a tour package from the ATA Excursiones agency. But things went horribly wrong when Medina, unbeknownst to him, consumed an adulterated drink on the menu during a trip to Saona Island.

He was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and test results showed that his drink was contaminated with methanol. Medina was hospitalized and it was uncertain if he could make it out alive. Yet against all odds, he persevered but it was not without lasting damages. Two years later, Medina continues to receive specialized care but his body is getting “weaker and weaker”.

Armando Medina suffers from severe neurological damage and has lost his speech and mobility

On October 31, 2020, Armando Medina drank what was labeled as ‘Dominican Rum’ while visiting Saona Island with his wife and friends. Since he was unfamiliar with the flavor, any warning signs that could have awakened his taste went unrecognized.

After returning from the island, he showed symptoms of headache and nausea. When the entourage arrived at Santo Domingo, the symptoms had worsened to include loss of vision and shortness of breath.

Medina was displaying early signs of lethal methanol poisoning but he brushed aside the uneasiness as a hangover from drinking. It was two days later that he was finally taken to the emergency room. By that time, it was a little too late as methanol poisoning can be treated effectively if diagnosed within 10 to 30 hours of ingestion.

Although he was immediately put on dialysis, Medina’s condition failed to improve as he became unresponsive and had convulsions. He suffered from severe neurological damage and went into a coma that lasted two weeks.

Medina has since lost much of his speech and mobility. He did regain a little bit of it over the years owing to physical therapy and dedicated care by his wife Anihoa Garate.

“[After coming out of the coma], he only moves one arm, opens and closes his eyes, breathes through a hole in the trachea, is fed through a stomach probe, and presents serious brain damage with medical prognosis served,” Garate updated his condition in an Instagram post.

Garate called out the tour agency to take responsibility and accountability for the unfortunate incident.

The Dominican Republic Government covered the RD$ 2.4 million in medical expenses incurred by Medina’s treatment

The methanol poisoning of a tourist caused by the negligence of an esteemed tour company became a high-profile case in the Dominican Republic. Even the government became involved and attempted to make amends for the accident.

The country’s Minister of Tourism, David Collado, gave a statement on December 5, 2020, where he pledged to take corrective measures for the tourism sector. The authorities raided the premises of the ATA Excursiones company and canceled its operating license, compelling it to shut down.

“The Dominican Government will not tolerate the sale of illegal and adulterated alcohol in any establishment, and those who engage in this activity will feel the full weight of the law. The health and well-being of all is a priority for this administration,” wrote Collado.

The Ministry of Public Health stepped in to cover the 2.4 million Dominican Pesos (equivalent to $50,000 at the time) medical expenses incurred for Medina’s treatment and care. The Ministry also launched a lawsuit against the tour operator.