Chile Sets Up `Virtual’ Intensive Care Unit as Rescue Day Nears

Chilean rescue workers have set up a “virtual” intensive care unit to provide special treatment for 10 of the 33 miners who have been trapped half a mile underground for more than two months as the rescue day approaches.Chilean officials plan to start extracting miners by midweek after one of the three drills working on the rescue broke through two days ago to tunnels that have been home to the trapped workers since Aug. 5, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters at the mine site yesterday. Rescue workers today are scheduled to finish installing a metal casing on the walls along one-sixth of the 623-meter (2,040-foot) rescue shaft, he said. Rescuers will then install and test equipment designed to lift the miners to the surface.Medical workers are focused on ensuring that the miners are prepared to rise to the surface in a process that could prove physically and emotionally stressful, Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters yesterday. The miners are eating meals rich in minerals and protein to prevent nausea and stabilize blood pressure during the ascent, while the 10 miners bound for the medical unit are being examined remotely by medical officials and laboratory workers on the surface, he said.The 10 miners have been identified by medical authorities as being the most in need of special care, the health minister said. The 10 are taking medication and in some cases are on special diets, he said.“These miners have undergone a test of will that most of us probably wouldn’t have been able to withstand,” the health minister said. “The 33 are not patients. We have 33 mature people who are self-sufficient and capable of confronting a test probably never experienced before in history.”
Medical Precautions

The miners will wear elastic bands on their lower extremities during the 15-to-20 minute ascent that will help ensure proper blood circulation and prevent a reduction in arterial pressure and possible fainting, the minister said. Rescue workers will supply the miners with emergency oxygen in case dust on the ascent causes breathing problems, he said.The miners will be split into three groups for the rescue. The “most skilled” will come out first in case they are needed to go back down to assist others, the health minister said. The weakest will then come out, followed by the rest.Several of the trapped miners have volunteered to go last, setting off a good-natured debate on the exit order, the health minister said.
“They truly have kept their spirits up,” Manalich said.

The miners will be allowed a few minutes with family members before being flown via helicopter to a nearby hospital for examinations and treatment, Norma Laques, mother of 19-year- old trapped miner Jimmy Sanchez, said in an interview yesterday. Family members will drive out to the hospital in a police escort, she said.“They’re all anxious about the rescue,” Laques, 40, said of the 33 miners. “I’m probably more anxious than they are. He told me to stay calm – Bloomberg