Wednesday Wisdom Series: Lessons Learned from Survivor Speakers, Santiago Chile, September 2018, Part III
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Here is your bi-monthly Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance
Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., Reprint is
available with written permission from the Foundation. 
Lessons Learned from Survivor Speakers, Santiago,
                                Chile, September 2018, Part III
Wednesday Wisdom Heart 

"I did not see myself as being resilient. I never thought of myself as a
victim either. I just did what I needed to do to survive.”

-Claudia Cereghino, Survivor of Rail Disaster

At the 2018 Latin America Member Partner meeting hosted by LATAM, we had the
privilege to hear from Claudia Cereghino, a survivor of a rail crash in 1994. While
Claudia explained that she had never thought of herself as being resilient, the
audience certainly saw her that way. Despite the delayed response, Claudia’s
story also contained an example of Human Services Response™ on the part of
a physician who went well beyond his normal duties to save Claudia’s beautiful face.
Following is a synopsis of the story of the rail accident and the prolonged trauma,
due to the delayed rescue, and the even slower medical care.  
Claudia’s father gave her the rail trip to Machu Picchu as a birthday present
when she turned twenty-four. Claudia’s first indication of the accident occurred when
she saw the car in front of her going straight into the river. Passengers were thrown
about the interior of the car she was riding in, as the train fell off the cliff, and the
forward car coming to rest in the river. Claudia lost consciousness briefly, but then
remembered her father and other passengers disentangling themselves
immediately after impact. They then climbed out of the rail car, helping each
other along the way. Claudia stated that sheer adrenalin helped them endure the
steep and challenging climb out of harm’s way.
Once out of the rail car, it became apparent that four passengers and one
employee were injured. Claudia felt a coolness about her face. When she touched
her face, she realized that she was oozing blood. Her father along with other
passengers, worked together to bandage her face. One woman donated part of
her undergarments to help create bandaging for the cuts on Claudia’s face. She
spoke of how uninjured passengers pulled a door off one of the rail cars and
fashioned straps, in order to secure a woman with a badly injured back to a 
firm surface, until help arrived. Claudia’s father sustained minor injuries as did
many others.
“I feel blessed. We were lucky. It could have been so much worse.”
-Claudia Cereghino, Survivor of Rail Disaster

Due to the rural setting of the accident, it was three hours before the traumatized
passengers and crew were rescued by another train sent to transport them to a
nearby town. The entire time they waited, rain poured down on them—but survivors
continued to support each other. A passenger held an umbrella over Claudia to
shield her injured face from the rain, as much as possible. During the wait, Claudia's
father dove into the river to retrieve their belongings, lest they were swept away in
the rain and swift moving river beneath the submerged rail car.
The “rescue” train not designed for tourists, was rough, to say the least. Nevertheless,
after 90 minutes of a rough ride, the weary and injured passengers and crew were
taken to a nearby town. A physician put the injured into a vehicle and drove them to
a local hospital after stopping to repair the tire that blew out on the trip. The doctor
left the passengers and crew with the medical team but carried Claudia on for
several more miles. He was looking for the right surgeon to stitch her facial injuries.
Claudia was surprised to learn later that since there was no plastic surgeon in the
geographical area, the best expert for the job was none other than a cardiac surgeon. 
The kind and the generous doctor knew this and spared no time to get her into his
skilled hands. Without anesthesia, Claudia remembers watching the needle and
twine going in and out of her face. The cortisone shot she received later hurt worse
than the suturing done without a painkiller. His work was later praised by a plastic
surgeon who pointed out to Claudia and her family how valuable it was that the
doctor who stitched her face had done so as quickly as he did. He explained that
unlike setting broken bones, where there is more time to get it right for proper
healing, the skin has a much shorter window and must be stitched quickly and
accurately for the best long-term result.
It took two more days for Claudia and her father to arrive home due to problems in
getting flights, but she still felt blessed by all of those who helped her and the
other survivors. Later other procedures were performed on Claudia’s face. She
wore a mask to help in the proper healing of her face for some time after the sutures
were removed. The rail accident followed by a car crash within two weeks, left
Claudia unable to travel on trains for a short while. However, today, Claudia travels
on all modes of mass transportation without problems.

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"The rail company employees were as helpful as they could be with no real
preparation for an accident. They had a poor communication system, no
training on how to help guests nor each other in the event of an accident. 
Without a first aid kit and no first aid training, they were as powerless as their

Cereghino, Survivor of Rail Disaster

Over the past couple of decades, the field of emergency response has grown
significantly. Major strides have been made in preparation and training of employees
of all modes of transportation. Yet, we still hear of cases, where buses, and other
vehicles carrying tourists, lack first aid kits and the employees have little if any
training on how to help passengers in an emergency. Since the loss of control is
the biggest challenge faced by all victims of trauma, we believe that training
employees prevents them from becoming as helpless as those who are in their
charge, as was the case in Claudia's story.
Empowerment of the passengers, guests and other customers in the aftermath of a
crisis, begins with empowering the employees. Stories like this one can go a long
way in making a case for the purchase of first aid kits, training materials and training
programs designed to prevent employees from being powerless and unable to
assist when disaster strikes their company. 

© 2018 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.
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