What now for the miners? At the surface, a taxing new life will begin
The men trapped underground for two months face many weeks of adjustment once they are rescued
Sunday 10 October 2010
There will be celebrations and euphoria in the next few days, as the trapped Chilean miners see daylight for the first time since 5 August. But as yet unknown is the impact of the long incarceration on the minds and bodies of these 33 men.
Psychologists warn that once the initial jubilation has died down, the long-term effects of the ordeal could show. Most common is likely to be recurring flashbacks. Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said: "When you're exposed to a life-threatening incident, you're likely to have episodes where you go through this emotional re-imagining of the trauma from time to time. You can expect to wake up in the middle of the night with traumatic memories. Anything likely to trigger a recollection – whether that's the smell of damp stone or a sound that was familiar like dripping water – can cause a sudden emotional reaction."
Rebuilding relationships with wives and girlfriends after the experience could also be a test. Christine Northam, a relationship counsellor, said: "The separation is one thing, but it's the way the couples cope with the trauma they have been through that will be the test. Relationships can be enhanced when you've been through a drama and proved you can survive it – but the long-term mental health problems for someone buried alive could cause relationship breakdown."
One miner, Yonni Barrios, whose 10-year affair was exposed when his wife and mistress were both calling his name from the mine's edge, is likely to face a tumultuous few weeks. Ms Northam said: "The normal feelings around affairs and betrayals will be intensified because of the events, meaning relationship breakdown and change is more likely to happen."
The miners could also experience the physical impact of their entombment in the coming weeks. While they used giant elastic bands to stretch and keep fit, and maintained a diet of 2,200 calories a day until the eight-hour fast each miner must undergo before getting in the rescue capsule, there were some aspects of daily life it was not possible to recreate, above all, daylight.
Derk-Jan Dijk, professor of sleep and physiology at Surrey University, said: "Because the miners haven't been exposed to natural light, their sleep cycles will be affected. As they readjust to the hours of daylight and night, they will experience what is effectively jet lag. They could also suffer from stress-related sleep problems if they relive their experiences in their dreams."
Surprisingly, after nearly two months in near-darkness, their eyesight will readjust almost as quickly as if they had only been in a dark room overnight. Larry Benjamin, honorary secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said: "The light will be very dazzling for them to start with, but that's usually taken care of within half a minute. If you're in the dark, the chemistry in the back of the retina changes so you can see better. But it doesn't make a difference if that's half an hour or many months; when you come into the light that switches back again in minutes. Sunglasses for the first minute or so might make it more comfortable, but there won't be any lasting effects."
The real test now will be returning to normality. Patricia Campbell-Hughes, a chartered psychologist, said: "I imagine it will be very hard for them to return to work, because they may well develop claustrophobia. To go back underground, even for a day, would be very difficult. It will be similar to the way people feel in a post-conflict situation: they'll have lost their sense of safety and predictability in the world. Their lives will certainly never be the same again."
The 33 men waiting to see daylight
Leader: Raul Bustos, age 40, hydraulics engineer
Bustos was forced to leave his job at the Chilean shipbuilder Asmar, in the port city of Talcahuano, when an earthquake struck in February. Leaving his wife and two children, he found work at the San Jose mine, where he worked on the water supply system.
Juan Aguilar, age 49, supervisor
Aguilar's wife Cristy Coronado has been camping above the mine every night since her husband became trapped underground, and says that he seems to be in good spirits when she speaks to him. The couple are from the mining town of Los Lagos.
Osman Araya, age 30, miner
Araya has a wife, Angelica Ancalipe, and baby daughter named Britany. Most of his letters have been addressed to them or to his mother. In one video message he said: "I'll never leave you guys, I'll fight to the end to be with you."
Florencio Avalos, age 31, driver
Florencio is the older brother of fellow miner Renan Avalos, and in charge of filming the videos sent up to rescuers and relatives. His father, Alfonso, cried with joy after hearing that one of the three drilling rigs working on the rescue had reached the tunnel adjoining where the miners were trapped.
Renan Avalos, age 29, miner
The younger brother of fellow trapped miner Florencio, Renan decided to start work in the San Jose mine after his brother got a job there. His main contacts on the surface are his father Alfonso and his uncle Wilson Avalos.
Jorge Galleguillos, age 56, miner
Galleguillos's main contact on the surface is friend Miguel Valenzuela, who had been due to enter the mine on the day it collapsed. Galleguillos is on medication for hypertension. He has asked Valenzuela to keep everything he sends to the surface safe as souvenirs for when he gets out.
Jose Henriquez, age 54, drill master
Henriquez is the group's official "pastor" and organises the daily prayers at 7.30am and after lunch. He was an evangelical preacher, and has worked in mines for 33 years. His brother, Gaston, also a miner, was once trapped in a mine himself, and has been reassuring Jose from the surface.
Daniel Herrera, age 27, lorry driver
Herrera's sister Calda told reporters of his plans to keep letters and clothes from the experience, to display in his house. But in letters to relatives, the paramedic's assistant complained about a psychologist who was treating the men saying he had caused "hysteria" among his workmates.
Juan Illanes, age 52, miner
A former corporal in the Beagle border conflict between Chile and Argentina, Illanes became the first of the 33 men to celebrate his birthday underground. To celebrate turning 52, the authorities allowed Illanes to speak with his wife, Carmen Baeza, for five minutes by video.
Mario Sepulveda, age 39, electrical specialist
Sepulveda regularly presents the videos the miners send up. In one taken in late August he acted as the narrator, taking the viewer on a tour of the 600 square feet subterranean quarters, and the adjoining mile-long tunnel. His contact on the surface is relative Gilberto Espinace.
Luis Urzua, age 54, topographer
Officials claim Urzua has been picked as a leader by his peers, who have nicknamed him "Don Lucho". In the first moments after the mine collapsed, Urzua ordered the men to huddle and took three miners to scout up the tunnel. He has used his topography training to make detailed maps of their environs.
Richard Villarroel, age 23, mechanic
Villarroel's family members have been camping above the mine, where he has worked for two years. His mother, Antonia Godoy, said: "I really want to reach in and pull him out of the television screen."
Leader: Carlos Barrios, age 27, miner
Barrios has emerged as a leader in his group. His mother, Griselda Godoy, has been sending him packages of clothing labelled with his name. She told reporters he was not happy with the way a psychologist had been working with the men.
Claudio Acuna, age 56, miner
Acuna is one of the palomeros, who organise the packages to and from the miners. He became the second of the miners to celebrate a birthday when he turned 54 on 9 September. His wife's gift was a signed T-shirt from the popular Chilean football club Colo Colo.
Samuel Avalos, age 43, miner
Avalos's main contact on the surface has been his father, also named Samuel Avalos, aged 70. He had worked in the mine for five months, and now checks the mining area's air quality.
Yonni Barrios, age 50, 'the doctor'
Barrios learned first aid through helping his diabetic mother as a child. That secured the position of a general medical adviser to his colleagues. His wife, Marta Salinas, discovered he had a mistress when she came across another woman holding a vigil for him following the accident.
Jose Ojeda, age 46, master driller
Ojeda has been sending sketches to the surface showing how the three groups are divided and the areas where they are sleeping. He is on medication for diabetes, and has asked his niece to print T-shirts for his entire group – all bearing the words "Grupo Rampa".
Alex Vega Salazar, age 31, heavy machinery mechanic
Salazar's wife, Jessica Salgado, spoke to him on 4 September. She said: "He is worried about some of his debts. But I have told him not to worry, that I have cancelled them already. You can see his face has changed, that he's better. I told him that I love him."
Jimmy Sanchez, age 19, miner
As the youngest of the miners, working in the San Jose mine was Sanchez's first job. He had been there for only five months before being trapped underground. Now, he checks the mine's temperature and humidity daily. He has a wife, Helen Avalos, and a three-month-old baby.
Victor Segovia, age 48, electrician
Segovia has a wife and 11-year-old daughter Jocelyn. In a letter to them he wrote: "I try to be strong but when I sleep I dream we are in an oven and when I wake I find myself in eternal darkness. That wears you down..." His daily task is to explain the general situation in the mine to officials.
Claudio Yanez, age 34, drill operator
In August, Yanez's long-term partner Cristina Nunez proposed to him via letter – the offer was accepted. The couple have two daughters. However, Yanez's mother and Nunez have been squabbling over who should receive his August wages and donations to the family.
Victor Zamora, age 33, vehicle mechanic
Zamora had no work in the mine on the day of the accident, but went inside to repair a vehicle. Originally from Talcahuano, he began work at the San Jose mine when an earthquake in February hit the city. Zamora has a wife and a young son named Arturo.
Leader: Omar Reygadas, age 56, bulldozer operator
Reygadas had been working at the mine for many years, but how many exactly is not known. He requested to speak first to his youngest son Lucio.
Carlos Bugueno, age 27, miner
Bugueno is a childhood friend of fellow trapped miner Pedro Cortez, who joined the mine at the same time as he did – it has not been reported exactly when. His mother and half-sister, Katharine Castillo, have been holding a vigil for him.
Pedro Cortez, age 24, miner
Cortez started working at the mine at the same time as childhood friend Carlos Bugueno. His main contact on the surface is his mother Doris Contreras, who has been reading the Bible at the San Jose mine since he became trapped underground.
Mario Gomez, age 63, miner
In July, Gomez had a meeting with mine managers to beg them to solve problems that made the mine unsafe. Following that meeting, he told his wife he was going to retire from mining as it was unsafe. He is the oldest of the miners, and has worked in mines since the age of 12.
Franklin Lobos, age 53, driver
When Barcelona player and miner's son David Villa sent two signed T-shirts to the miners, Lobos received one of them. This could be due to Lobos having played professionally for a local league.
Carlos Mamani, age 23, heavy machinery operator
Bolivian Mamani's main contact on the surface is his wife Monica Quispe. His father-in-law declared he had no intentions to work in a mine again, following the trauma of being trapped. Prior to the accident he had been working in the mine for only five days.
Edison Pena, age 34, miner
Pena has reportedly been running 10 kilometres a day underground, and it has been suggested he is the most physically fit of the miners. He is also a dedicated Elvis Presley fan, requesting Presley music compilations to be sent down.
Esteban Rojas, age 44, in charge of maintenance
Rojas has sent a letter to the surface asking girlfriend of 25 years, Jessica Ganiez, to marry him. Ganiez says she has already bought the wedding dress. They have three children together and two grandchildren. His brother is fellow miner Pablo Rojas.
Pablo Rojas, age 45, miner
Rojas worked in the mine for six months before the accident. His brother is fellow miner Esteban Rojas. He has a wife and son.
Dario Segovia, age 48, drill operator
Segovia's father Dario Senior was also a miner, and has spent a week trapped in a mine. Dario's sister, Maria, has been leading prayers at Camp Hope, where relatives of the miners wait. Others at the camp have nicknamed her "La Alcaldesa", which translates as "the mayoress".
Ariel Ticona, age 29, miner
Ticona's wife, Elizabeth Segovia, gave birth to their first baby on 14 September. Authorities used a fibre-optic link to allow him to watch a video of his daughter's birth. Ticona asked his wife to name their daughter Esperanza, the Spanish word for "hope".
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