Reunion joy for cave boys but doctors play it safe

Top News | 12 Jul 2018

The young footballers rescued from a Thai cave system had a reunion - of sorts - with their weeping families yesterday.

The boys wore hospital masks and gowns as they waved through protective glass in hospital.

After almost three weeks trapped in the dark the boys - aged 11 to 16 - were allowed to see their relatives in a controlled environment as doctors are worried about their health.

In a video shown at a press briefing, some of the parents were in tears. The families were not allowed to enter the room where the boys are being treated in order to avoid infection.

Dr Chaiyawej Thanapaisarn told CNN three of the boys are being treated for minor cases of pneumonia, but predicted most would be discharged after about a week. "The recovery process should take around 30 days after they are discharged," he said.

Speaking after he left hospital, Tanawat Viboonrungruang, the father of 11-year-old Titun, said he felt relieved to see his son was healthy.

Seeing his son through the glass, he said he only wanted to hug him.

"I started to cry, everybody started to cry," he said. "I want to say thanks to those who rescued my boy and helped him to have a new life, it's like a rebirth."

Health ministry inspector Tongchai Lertvirairatanapong said the boys were in good condition, despite each losing an average of two kilograms in weight during their time in the cave. He attributed their relative good health to their coach, Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, 25, a former monk who was the last person out. "I have to praise the coach who took care of the footballers very well," Lertvirairatanapong said.

He said the children had not eaten any food in the nine days before they were found, and drank murky water from inside the cave, which saved them.

On Tuesday authorities said some of the boys had asked to eat bread with chocolate spread, but mostly they would be given a food similar to milk.

The first boys rescued on Sunday and a second group saw relatives through the glass partition and spoke to them on a telephone line. They will soon be able to meet them in person, but only while wearing protective clothing. But the third group are still undergoing tests.

The operation to save the boys ended on Tuesday, when the Thai Navy SEAL rescuers and a doctor followed the last four boys and their coach out of the cave complex.

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