A former soldier has become a human beer keg – after a bizarre medical condition means his stomach started turning food into alcohol.
Ray Lewis, 48, suffers from Auto-brewery Syndrome – rare a condition where his body produces its own alcohol from food and can leave him paralytic after eating an evening meal.
And the former US army paratrooper, from Eugene, Oregon, ended up losing his job as a truck driver and in court – after he crashed a vehicle after eating his lunch.
The 48-year-old is restricted to a diet of protein, vegetables, and nuts, and is not allowed to touch chocolate, chips, or any other sugars or carbohydrates.
And his wife has even resorted to attaching a GPS tracker to Ray if she has to leave him alone – in case he becomes drunk and wanders off.
“It has the same physiological effects on the body as lifelong binge drinking. The body’s organs don’t know or care where the booze originates.
His wife Sierra, who runs a soap business and looks after Ray, said: “I only leave him alone at home when I must go to work in town. I rarely leave his side for long.
“I got a GPS tracking device that is clipped to his backpack if I have to leave him unattended in public.
“One minute he is fine and the next it smells like someone has smashed a vodka bottle on the ground.”
“We were working side-by-side for eight to 10 hours straight, eating the same exact foods, and sharing beverage cups. I had no idea what was going on.”
Sierra and Ray only came across ABS when a friend mentioned they had seen it on a television drama.
After immediately researching the condition and consulting with friends, Sierra concluded that however rare and unlikely it sounded, ABS was the only explanation for Ray’s sudden drunkenness.
In April 2015, Ray promised her he had not been drinking. She tested him with a blood alcohol metre and it came up at 0.14. In the US, the legal driving limit is 0.08, while here in New Zealand it’s 0.05.
Shocked, the couple began to look for a doctor who could confirm the diagnosis. But they still faced a long fight to be taken seriously.
“Eventually we were referred to Dr Anup Kanodia in Ohio, who after numerous tests confirmed the diagnosis of a systemic yeast infection and Auto-Brewery Syndrome.”
Ray’s diagnosis came in September 2015, and he has since been fighting to overturn his DUI conviction.
In the meantime, he and Sierra are still struggling to adapt to life as an “alcoholic”.
Donate to Ray’s legal costs and adaptations to his new life here on Go Fund Me.