Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Out Alive

I call this blog Getting Out Alive because it deals with survival situations of all kinds — both urban and wilderness. The focus is staying alive and well, working out problems that threaten survival, and ultimately getting out alive.

Nothing expresses the concept of getting out alive as well as the situation in the collapsed gold/silver mine in Chile, and the incredible rescue of trapped miners after 69 days below ground. For the first 17 days, nobody on the surface even knew if anyone survived in the lower chamber of the mine after 700,000 pounds of rock collapsed, sealing the only way out.

But on the surface, there was a refusal to give up hope until they knew for certain the fate of the trapped miners. So a fresh bore hole was drilled through the half-mile of ground that lay between the surface and the chamber. It took 17 days before the men on the surface knew that the men below were still alive. During that 2-1/2 weeks, the 33 trapped miners subsisted on what was intended to be a 48-hour emergency supply of food. I have no information about a freshwater supply, but it is not unusual for water to seep into mine shafts, so I assume that was the source of water that kept them alive. The temperature in the mine is reported to be 90 degrees, so heat exhaustion and dehydration would certainly be a concern.

When the small bore hole was finished, 17 days after the collapse, the men trapped below were able to send a message of hope to the surface. They were all still alive. What are the chances!? But they all survived and were in good condition. Some of the men had preexisting medical conditions that required medication that was unavailable. One man was diabetic, another suffered from silicosis of the lungs, requiring antibiotics and other meds that were simply not available to him during his entrapment. But they were all in good condition in spite of these challenges.

A huge rescue effort was put into motion, calling on the talents and skills of miners and engineers and mechanics and medical personnel from all around the world. Three attempts were made to drill a rescue tunnel to the chamber, but the first two failed. Finally, the third option succeeded, and last night the first miner was rescued. As I write this, the rescue operation is still on-going, with more than half of the men now back on the surface. Those who have come up are in remarkably good condition, not really needing any comprehensive medical attention, although they are all taken to a nearby medical facility to be checked out.

Psychologists are concerned that the long period of confinement, much of the time with no cause for hope, might have a lasting effect. Steps were taken to help mitigate panic attacks and claustrophobia during the hour-long ride to the surface in the tight confines of the rescue capsule. Everything possible is being done to help these men regain normalcy, although there is consensus that life will never really be normal for these survivors. Right now, everyone is just thankful to have them coming out of this extreme situation alive. It's the very essence of the name of this blog.

There are lessons for us in this episode.

  • If you believe in God, invite Him to share the experience with you and to carry your load. 
  • Never give up hope. It does no good to wallow in hopelessness, because that will lead you to quit trying. 
  • Try to remain calm. If panic starts to take over your mind, close your eyes and imagine a pleasant scene. I use a beach in Hawaii as my imagined location, with gentle surf rolling ashore and a breeze teasing the palm trees under a perfect blue sky. Your mileage may vary. 
  • Stretch your rations, because you never know how long it's going to take to be rescued.
  • Reduce your energy consumption by resting as much as possible and working only on those projects that have a definite positive impact on your survival. 
  • Positive self-talk, and positive conversations with those around you will help keep yourself and others from descending into a psychological quagmire. Remember, 90% of survival is between your ears, so pay a lot of attention to psychological stability. 

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