Experts say Chilean miners' journey isn't over yet

FRESNO, California

Once feared lost, the 33 Chilean miners cheered in unison after being raised from the depths of the earth Wednesday night.

No one had ever been trapped down there for so long and survived. All of them looked to be in good spirits, but questions still remain over their health both in the short and long term.

"I think the biggest ones have to deal with the kidney," said Dr. Ebbeling. "They were without liquid and very low food for the initial period before the stuff was broken through."

Doctor and allergist William Ebbeling says some of the miners could also suffer serious lung damage after being exposed to silica dust. Things could have been much worse he says if not for the quick thinking of the foreman who held the group together.

"That leader that parceled out the food very slowly over a period of time should be credited with a lot of good thinking on his part." added Dr. Ebbeling.

Dr. Eric Hickey agrees. The psychology professor at Fresno City College says the miners avoided a "Lord of the Flies" scenario where they would have organized, divided, and eventually attacked each other.

"If there had been no contact with them for two months, you can rest assured we'd probably have some dead people down there at the hands of others because of the paranoia and fear that they would have. The fact they had something to hold onto, they had hope." said Dr. Hickey.

The miners' celebrations look like something out of a movie but Dr. Hickey is quick to point out some of them will struggle to have a Hollywood ending.

"Some of the problems they'll face on top is getting back to work with their families and being normal again," said Dr. Hickey. "You know the nightmares, the fears, the paranoia that many of them will have."

Dr. Hickey adds family members may need therapy as well after this emotional ordeal. In addition to the major health problems Dr. Ebbeling says many miners will suffer cases of ringworm and gingivitis.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.