The rescues were astonishing. 33 men were elevated from nearly half a mile beneath the Earth’s surface. They spent 69 days underground, and doctors were concerned about their mental and physical health.
All of the men appeared to be well, and in good spirits. They hugged loved ones, thanked rescue workers and waved to well-wishers before being whisked away to a nearby medical facility. The tale of these brave men, however, is far from over.
Last Man Out
Luis Urzua, foreman of the group, helped keep the men together and disciplined. He was held in high esteem and given the honor of being the last man out of the mine. After his rescue, Urzua took a few extra minutes to speak with Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. He thanked the President and all the rescuers for their diligence, and said how proud he was of what they had done.
Before long Urzua was assisted onto a stretcher, like the rest of the men, and wheeled inside a temporary hospital. Some predicted that the miners would spend two or more weeks in medical facilities.
Assistant Director of the Copiapo Hospital, Dr. Jorge Montes, expressed surprise at how well the men held up after being underground for so long. A few experienced slight skin conditions due to the excessive temperatures they endured, and others had various minor health complications, but the only serious case was a man with pneumonia. The miner with this ailment already had a lung condition, and it was exacerbated by his ordeal.
There are concerns that the men will face long-term mental effects, especially from post-traumatic stress disorder. They have to endure restless nights and other issues for years to come. As the miners return to their normal lives, they will be monitored for claustrophobia, panic attacks and nightmares. Even so, the men are doing well, and some may be released as early as October 14.
Although the men are all above ground again, we haven’t heard the last of them. We can expect to see more from and about the miners in the form of interviews, books and perhaps even movie deals. The second miner rescued, Mario Sepulveda, asked that the miners not be treated as celebrities or journalists. His hope is to stay out of the public spotlight. Despite his statements, Sepulveda’s exuberant personality has caused many to suggest that he could easily land a job hosting a television show.
Psychiatrist Dr. John Markowitz explains that this media attention could have both positive and negative aspects. He says that the publicity might give the miners a sense of support and security. Negative publicity, however, could cause the men to feel exploited and become a detriment to their mental health. It’s hard to imagine anything other than a completely positive and supportive reaction to these men, but only time will tell how they will respond to a barrage of media.
One of the miners, Edison Pena, is a lifelong Elvis fan. He listened to the King’s music while jogging in underground tunnels, and gathered all the men together for Elvis singalongs. His appreciation has not gone unnoticed; Pena has been invited to enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to Graceland.
The miners may be surprised with numerous “rewards” like this following their ordeal, but the primary goal is a return to normal life. People are, of course, very curious about these men and how they survived. They can expect a huge amount of attention over the coming weeks, but hopefully their right to privacy will be respected. We wish all of these men a speedy recovery and a safe, healthy and prosperous future.
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