The feel-good story of 2018 captured the attention of people all over the world. A hapless soccer team wandered into unexpected danger in a cave and found themselves trapped by rising groundwater levels. Experts from around the world staged an astounding rescue. That, we all believed, was the end of the story. Now, new details about the rescue are coming to light.
As plans for the rescue emerged, the world held its collective breath. The 12 Thai boys would swim out, authorities said, with the help of rescue divers. They’d been in the cave for 10 days when they were finally located, and it would be many more before everyone was safe.
But it was this swimming detail that has stumped many. Some of the boys didn’t know how to swim. None were trained on how to use SCUBA gear. How would they learn these basic skills at such an advanced level?
Even the experts understood the risks. As the waters rose, time ran out. “If we dive now,” one of the rescuers noted, “some might die; but if we don’t dive, everybody will die and we’re just going to collect 13 bodies.”
The parents outside the cave were helpless. They had to place their trust in the authorities. To keep them placated, a story about the plan was concocted. The rescuers said they would give the boys oxygen, and a tether. A diver would swim in front, while another diver would swim behind. Together, they said, these groups of divers could help each boy swim out.
This didn’t happen. “Those who’d been inside the flooded tunnels knew there was no way a child who had never dived before could make it through the muddy and treacherous obstacle course,” The Daily Mail writes. “The only hope was to sedate them, put oxygen-fed masks with silicone seals over their faces and let the expert cave divers carry them out.”
The first challenge was finding gear to fit the boys. Face masks had to fit securely.
“As for sedating them,” DM adds, “that would need specialists, and a call went out to two vastly experienced Australian cave divers, Dr Richard Harris, an anesthetist known by all as Dr Harry, and his friend and dive partner Craig Challen, a retired vet. Dr Harry, who ran a course teaching emergency service workers how to dive, would take on the highly delicate task of putting the boys to sleep, while, with his clinical expertise, Challen would be able to check on them as they were dived out.”
As each rescue began, the boys were dosed with Xanax. Then they were injected with ketamine. The first calmed them, the second knocked them out. But the sleep only lasts an hour, so the divers had to carry a syringe with them to inject more ketamine before the kids woke.
“The last drug,” DM notes, was “atropine, to reduce the saliva in the boys’ mouths from which they could drown, would also be injected into their legs.”
With their hands cuffed, and completely sedated, the divers swam the boys free. The level of improvisation in the cave was stunning. No rescue like this had ever been attempted, and all of the techniques had to be tested in real time.
Yet the improvisation outside of the cave, with the optimistic face that authorities put on the whole operation, kept the families calm, too.
The deception now, seems logical. The reaction to this revelation, though, might be dramatically different if the outcome for the boys wasn’t so successful.