Dr. Richard Saluzzo: Miner doing 'very well'
Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.
(CNN) -- While rescue crews were still pulling the trapped miners from the emergency shaft in Somerset, Pennsylvania, very early Sunday morning, the first miner out, Randy Fogle, 43, had already been airlifted to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Jamestown.
He and the others had been trapped by water in a cold, dark cavern some 240 feet underground for more than three days. When a drill finally broke through to them and a telephone was lowered down, Fogle complained of chest pain.
CNN anchor Carol Lin discussed Fogle's condition with Dr. Richard Saluzzo, chief executive officer of the Conemaugh Health System.
LIN: How's he doing?
SALUZZO: Very well. He's a little hypothermic, which means his body temperature is a little bit low, but not seriously. He's complaining of some chest pain. But from a traumatic point of view, there don't seem to be any serious injuries at this point. He's lucid and oriented.
LIN: Why is it they decided to airlift him to your hospital?
SALUZZO: We're a tertiary trauma center so that we can deal with any accute injuries that might be present. We can also, for hypothermia put him on bypass. We have the bypass unit. So we can raise their body temperature if need be.
LIN: He was complaining of some chest pains. Does it appear that he has any heart problems?
SALUZZO: Well it's too early to tell. We're just doing an EKG. He only arrived four or five minutes ago.
LIN: What sort of treatment is he undergoing now? The first thing you're going to attack is the hypothermia?
SALUZZO: Yes, we're warming him up which you can usually do externally with just blankets and lamps unless the body temperature is below a certain level. Then you have to do something more invasive. But we think we can warm him up just with passive means. And then we'll do the bloodwork and usual workup for any heart problems and go through a thorough exam to make sure there's no injuries.
Some patients in this kind of situation, when they lay on one part of their body for a day or two, they get a breakdown of their muscle and that can injure their kidneys. So we need to do a large workup on him still before we give him a clean bill of health.
LIN: But it sounds like, considering what he's been through -- a mile down in a mine shaft, soaked in water, hypothermia, chances are setting in in just a few hours after he was trapped -- it sounds like he's in pretty good shape.
SALUZZO: Carol, it's amazing. We're all so happy here for these miners. Honestly, I've been in this business a long time -- 20 years -- and I've seen spelunkers, people get caught in caves, and I've seen people get caught in lakes for more than a day -- they've looked a lot worse than this. So I think those guys did such a tremendous job down there taking care of these miners. So we're thrilled.
LIN: What's he saying?
SALUZZO: He's asking a lot of questions about where he is and what's going on. But he's completely with it and wants to know where his family is. We reassured him that they're on their way.
LIN: How soon are they going to be reunited there?
SALUZZO: I don't think it will be too terribly long. We just want to make sure we don't have a circus-like atmosphere until we clear him and make sure everything is OK. The guy has been under so much psychological stress if nothing else for the last three days. We just want to get him comfortable.
LIN: Sure. In the process of taking some of his vitals, did he tell you what it was like down there?
SALUZZO: These miners are very tough so they take these things in stride. But he said it was an ordeal, very difficult. Very difficult, wouldn't want to do it again, as you can imagine.
LIN: Did he talk about high the water was, how cold?
SALUZZO: No I didn't get into that detail because really right now we're just doing what we call the primary and secondary surveys of him. So our history is pretty much limited to medical issues at this point. There are a few errant comments. But I'm sure all that will emerge from these fellows.
LIN: Can you tell though by the nature of his injuries what it is what he went through and how much that tells you that the human body can endure?
SALUZZO: I think just from his temperature -- which is 10-15 degrees below normal -- that tells you something. But from an external point of view -- not a lot of injuries, not a lot of physical evidence of injury. In fact, he still has his watch and his wedding ring on. So I found that remarkable.
LIN: And I'm sure his wife will be relieved and happy to hear that! We all have our priorities in crises. Are you expected to get any of the other miners?
SALUZZO: We have a second one that's coming momentarily.
LIN: Is this John Unger?
SALUZZO: I'm not sure of the name of the second one, but this is the patient with shoulder injuries and perhaps some chest injuries. Nothing too serious from the initial assessment at the scene.
LIN: Yes, John Unger, age 52.
SALUZZO: And I think the third one went to Somerset Hospital and the fourth one they just brought up. Therefore, my guess is they will be in relatively good shape.
LIN: What explains that, doctor?
SALUZZO: I think it was the heated air that they -- I just think that these guys, from an engineering point of view -- did just a miraculous job of putting the heated air down there so early, so early on, that I think prevented them from getting really getting seriously hypothermic. And their own experience -- knowing where to go in the veins and finding a dry spot -- I think was also critical.
LIN: We're looking at live pictures, Dr. Saluzzo, right now. And I think we're seeing the fifth miner getting pulled up out of that hole. It's got to be just a wonderful sound to hear that applause.
SALUZZO: Like I say, Western Pennsylvania has had its travails over the years and the September 11. So we're so happy to see a good outcome with this situation.
LIN: You know, you deal a lot with the body and its own ability to heal -- how important is their mindset while they're down there?
SALUZZO: Well, that's a very good question. I think you could, if you panicked, I think there's lots of opportunities to hurt yourself down there. So I think they probably stuck together and acted as a team. And that probably saved some lives.
The helicopter is overhead right now, probably bringing Mr. Unger.
LIN: Thank you.
U.S. TOP STORIES:
Report: SUVs pose danger
Title IX minority pushes enforcement
Robert Blake goes to court
Judge orders man's mouth taped shut
Chicago Mayor Daley wins fifth term
|Back to the top|