Thai cave rescue: Most of 12 boys lost an average of 2kg, but otherwise healthy

Rescuers have freed the last four of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded cave, where they were trapped for more than two weeks.
Top row from left: Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11; Mongkol Booneiam, 12 or 13; Somepong Jaiwong, 13; Panumas Sangdee, 13; Duganpet Promtep, 13; Middle row from left: Ekarat Wongsukchan, 14; Adul Sam-on, 14; Nattawut Takamrong, 14; Pipat Pho, 15; Prajak Su
Top row from left: Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11; Mongkol Booneiam, 12 or 13; Somepong Jaiwong, 13; Panumas Sangdee, 13; Duganpet Promtep, 13; Middle row from left: Ekarat Wongsukchan, 14; Adul Sam-on, 14; Nattawut Takamrong, 14; Pipat Pho, 15; Prajak Sutham, 15; Bottom row from left: Pornchai Kamluang, 16; Peerapat Sompiangjai, 17; and their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK

CHIANG RAI - Most of the 12 boys rescued from inside a Thai cave lost an average of 2kg during their ordeal but are otherwise in good health, a senior official said on Wednesday (July 11) in the latest health update on the boys.

"From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg," Dr Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, an inspector for Thailand’s health department, said on Wednesday morning.

“None of them have serious condition deriving from lack of food. You can stay for months without food, but they were not without water," Dr Thongchai added.

"Overall the 13 people are in very good condition," Dr Thongchai said.

“And because they stayed together, their emotions were under control. They helped each other out, thanks to the management of the coach (assistant coach Ekkapol Chantawong).”

“One person among the last five rescued and sent here Tuesday evening showed signs of some lung conditions,” he said at a press conference held at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital. The 13 were rescued in three groups from Sunday to Tuesday.

The first video of the Thai boys after they were rescued was released on Wednesday, showing them smiling and waving from their hospital beds, looking thin but fine.

Some of them, wearing surgical masks, lay on their beds. Some sat and made the “peace sign” gesture for the camera.

Two other boys who had shown symptoms of pneumonia have responded well to medication, Dr Thongchai said in comments carried by The Nation newspaper.

All 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach are receiving medical care at the hospital.

The boys in the third group and their coach have been given antibiotics, and rabies and tetanus vaccines.

Their blood samples have also been sent to a lab in Bangkok to check for signs of any diseases they may have picked up from the Tham Luang cave. The lab results for the first two groups show no signs of melioidosis, leptospirosis, scrub typhus or nipah virus.

Doctors had feared the boys might be exposed to diseases carried by bats, a fungal infection sometimes called "cave disease", or water-borne bacterial disease leptospirosis during the prolonged period they spent underground.

The boys said they had not seen bats or any other animals while in the cave. They entered the Tham Luang cave near the border with Myanmar on June 23 and flash floods forced them to seek refugee on higher ground deep in the 10km-long cave. 

“Almost all of the boys have been found to have high level of white blood cells, a sign of infection. So antibiotics are being given,” said Dr Thongchai.

“They will be assessed one by one when they can stop receiving antibiotics.”

The first of the last group to be rescued from the cave arrived at the hospital at 6.34pm on Tuesday.

Unlike the first two groups who were rescued on Sunday and Monday, the five freed on Tuesday have normal blood pressure and normal body temperature.

One of the boys in the second group had very low body temperature and an unusually low pulse. After being treated, all eight were now in good condition, according to officials at a press conference on Tuesday (July 10).

“The first eight boys who arrived here can communicate among themselves, but they are still in their beds, and cannot play with one another now," said Dr Thongchai on Wednesday, adding that families of the first and second groups are allowed to visit them.

The visitors have to wear protection suits and be at least 2m away from them. No physical contact is allowed.

Local media has reported that the boys and the coach were given anti-anxiety medicine before taking their journey out of the cave, a claim rejected by Dr Thongchai.

He said that the medics will stay on at the cave site for one or two days to check on the health of rescue workers or volunteers.

All of them would be kept in quarantine at the hospital for seven days and their health would be closely monitored for one week after discharge. Some of the boys' requests to watch TV have been denied pending consultations with psychiatrists.

Parents of the first eight boys that were freed have been able to visit them, but had to wear protective suits and stand 2 metres away as a precaution against possible infection. 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the boys should be given time to recover.

“The important thing is... personal space,” General Prayut told reporters. “The best way is not to bother them and let them study.”

Dr Ananya Sinrachatanant, a psychiatrist from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the mental health of all survivors remains fragile as they have just survived a traumatic experience, according to local media.

She urged everyone to give them private space with their families and refrain from asking them about what happened while they were stranded in the cave, or worse, blame them for their actions.