Dressed for survival

What are the miners wearing to give them the best chance of surviving the dangerous trip to the outside world?

Helmet with headphones and microphone

This allows them to be in contact with the surface for support and to follow instructions from above. There is a risk of panic attacks as a result of the confined space and the nerve-wracking journey. Counsellors will be able to talk them through it and doctors can respond to signs of physical distress.

Protective eye wear

Miners keep their eyes closed and are given sunglasses to protect eyes that have become unaccustomed to light.

Heart rate monitor

This will measure vital signs (pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate).

Lightweight, waterproof clothing

These are made-to-measure to limit weight and volume as much as possible and protect miners against damp conditions.

Elastic abdomen support

This will support the lower abdomen and protect the spine, making it more resistant to possible jagging and trauma while being hoisted to the surface.

Elastic bandages

The bandages around the lower legs help prevent blood pooling in the lower legs which will cause a drop in blood pressure and may cause fainting.

Health risks during ascent

One of the greatest health risks during the ascent is vomiting. Miners are thus instructed to hold their chins up during the ascent. As they have to stand still and are unable to move their legs for a long time, there is a great risk of fainting. Other risks include hypertension complications and panic attacks. Doctors first considered giving the miners sedatives beforehand but decided against it as the miners need to be fully alert in case of an emergency.

What will happen to the miners now?

Miners will spend two days in hospital for tests and observation and will be monitored by medics for six months after the rescue. They will have the opportunity for counselling.

(Ilse Pauw and Denzil Daniels, October 2010)

Read more:

Miners: the first light of day
Great mining rescues and disasters
Emotional ordeal far from over

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