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The first eight boys rescued from a Thai cave are in decent physical and mental health with some even asking for chocolate, but they remain in hospital and under psychological observation for any lasting damage from their underground ordeal.
Doctors are taking no chances with their physical recovery, quarantining the group, administering tetanus and rabies shots, and putting two of the team on antibiotics after they showed signs of pneumonia.
They have also been given sunglasses to wear as they adjust to daylight after days trapped in the dark.
Authorities had closely guarded the details of the boys’ condition, who will be monitored in hospital for a week.
But at a Tuesday press conference they were optimistic about the progress of the “Wild Boars” to emerge so far, in two long and complex days of operations to free them.
“They are all in good spirits and happy to be out,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the public health ministry, told reporters.
“Everyone is in a good mental state,” he said but added psychologists will work with them.
Experts had warned of possible long-term psychological damage such PTSD from the ordeal including the initial 10 days underground, in darkness and without contact with the outside world.
“It is certainly a risk and can take some time to manifest itself and make its presence known,” said Andrew Watson, a specialist on rescues from mines and floods.
“I am not sure about children and how they will react.”
Yet initial reports suggest the eight boys, aged 12-16, were in good shape, despite spending more than a fortnight underground.
“The boys were asking for bread with chocolate spread,” Jedsada said, adding that the request was granted but they were kept away from spicy food.
The fact they are footballers who are “strong and in good health” may account for their physical resilience, he added.
The final four and their coach are expected to be rescued later on Tuesday after 17 nights inside the cave system.
They were first found by British divers more than a week ago on Monday after spending 10 days with limited food or water.
Concerns abounded that they could have resorted to contaminated water or been exposed to bird or bat droppings common in the cave.
Jedsada said the group had been given x-rays and blood tests, adding that the two who presented suspected symptoms of pneumonia were “in a normal state”.
Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, Inspector General of the public health ministry, said the first four – aged 14 to 16 – taken out on Sunday were eating normal, plain food.
For now the boys remain in quarantine but some of their parents have been able to see their children through the glass.
After more lab results are scrutinised, parents of the first four will after 48 hours be allowed to visit their children at their beds wearing protective gear.
Thailand has been riveted by the dramatic rescue mission to save the “Wild Boars” team after they first became trapped in Tham Luang more than two weeks ago by rising floodwaters.
Rescuers say they will extract the rest of the squad and their coach on Tuesday as heavy rains return.