Psychoanalysis: Rana Plaza Survivor’s Story

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April 24, 2013.

Since the date, we have seen, heard and read many stories through various media. The stories of people, of injured men, of dead men, of rescue workers. The story of a collapsed building- The Rana Plaza.

That day, forgetting all the work, people were stuck in front of their television sets, their anxious eyes stared at the screen. Next morning, as soon as I woke up I looked through all the pages of the newspaper to see if there was any new hope. Families and relatives from all over the country gathered with their heavy hearts, stood helplessly for days, waiting for their person trapped inside to come out, to see them once.

Their beloved sister, their dearest brother, their lovely wife, their darling husband.

Some of them really found them, surprising everyone, they found their soul mate alive. The tears of the eyes, the wailing of the chest, have blown away in the distant sky, the fear and terror seemed to have floated away in the tide of light. People all over the country, all over the world could only imagine how strange life is. Survival certainly tastes sweet!

Eight days after the Rana Plaza incident, on Friday evening, May 3, I spoke to one such survivor, directly. The meaning of survival was still sparkling in her eyes, in her words, in her stories, everywhere. After being trapped in a dark rotting hole for two nights and a half, the story of this new life begun again.

Wow, how wonderful it must feel to be alive again!

Life means something different now. The girl was talking in a very normal voice. No fear, no tension. There was not much fatigue in her articulation, as if she just woke up from her morning sleep.

The story began with the very beginning of that morning, how her morning of the day of that incident had started. When she got into her workplace at half past eight, some girls came running to her and told her- ‘why did you come today, we will be closed today after a while. Don’t you know there are cracks in the three-storey of the building?’

The girl was then on the fifth floor. Talking to others what was going on, as these conversations continue, the hustle and bustle suddenly started. The girl could not go anywhere. She stood up. Standing next to her, she held the hands of two other girls. One of the two girls was a nurse, the other was a general worker. The girl herself was a nurse too. With her intuition, she figured that it was not possible to go up the stairs at that moment. She thought this would be her end, being crushed under the building. I don’t know if it was fear, or perhaps a challenge to defeat death, three of them just stood there still, holding each other’s hands. Then all of a sudden they realized, they were going down. The entire building was going down. Everything was happening really fast. After that, she couldn’t remember anything else.

When she came back to her senses she realized she was alive. But she couldn’t move her hand.

“I tried to understand for a while what just happened! Why can’t I move my hand? Where was I? I couldn’t understand anything.” She told me.

There was a pillar on the hand. Only the right hand was free. Strangely, she was still holding her mobile in her hand, she saw the time on the mobile.

“I saw the time on my mobile again and again from lying down in the same way, a day or two was passed. In complete darkness and pin drop silence. Like the battery life of her mobile phone, the light of her life was also fading slowly.

Shortly after gaining consciousness, the girl noticed that her forehead was bleeding. With her free right hand she repeatedly tried to wipe the blood. Being in the nursing profession, she knew she might die due to bleeding. But to her surprise, the bleeding stopped after a while.

She started talking to herself. When she redeemed her composure, she began to make noises. She got an answer. But it wasn’t from the rescue workers. The girl who was the worker among the three, who was holding hands with her, made a noise. “Apa, I’m alive too. Under a pillar. But I can’t move.” From there, the new struggle of their survival began. The two of them were talking, reciting prayers and waiting. What if someone really hears their prayers?

She began to calculate, it will take several hours for someone to come to rescue. So there is nothing to do but wait. Meanwhile, she felt she could move her right hand a little, there was a body soaked in blood next to it. Then she realized it was not the body, it was rather part of the body, the body part belonged to the other girl who was with them. The smell of blood and flesh started coming to her nose. At one point, the fragmented part began to stink. The second night was about to end. The girl smelled her own death. She understood that she would not survive.

 Two days later, the rescue workers reached her in the morning. The girl was rescued alive in the afternoon and the other girl in the evening. However, her hand remained under the pillar from above the elbow. She finally survived, but without one of her hands.

The girl’s eyes were sparkling as she told the story. The story seemed to end in an instant. She didn’t stuck anywhere. I didn’t interrupt her, I heard her with all my heart. She told me, “Believe me sir, I didn’t feel hunger even once in those two days. I didn’t even realized my throat was dried up.’

How strange?!

The above story is a true story, I heard it from the girl lying in the bed of Savar Enam Medical Hospital. My intention was not just to hear a story, I wanted to know about the mental state of the survivors. What was going on in their minds, if only I could understand them a little, only if  I could get a chance to help someone in the slightest..

(The story was told with the help of a hospital doctor.)

Analysis of her mental state

She remembered when she was going down. She couldn’t remember exactly what happened next. Maybe she lost her consciousness, maybe not. Science says that this happens in the event of an accident. In most cases, people can’t remember that accidental moment. Later when consciousness starts working she slowly started to remember some of the things. But so much depends on the severity of the incident. Certainly there is nothing to describe about the horror of this particular incident.

Our body works in a very extraordinary way, it is magic. How does it function, how it will respond, we never know. Science has discovered many things. Yet, many things remain in the dark. I would like to share a little part of the discovery here.

The girl was saying that she had not been hungry in two days, nor had she felt her throat dried. Science says it happens when a person is in shock or caught in an emergency condition (e.g. extreme pressure). All the mechanisms inside her is alerted by default. The central system within itself continues to support other systems, as long as possible. In such a condition of the girl, the metabolism of the body was almost zero. There was a lot of steroid secretion. The body used the food stored in it in such a way, so that there is no need for hunger or water. In order to survive, the body creates its own mechanism, it takes such measures on its own in fight of flight situations like this.

When rescuers found her, she rejoiced her life. She couldn’t feel any other pain in joy. Nothing could touch her anymore, the terrible things that happened in front of her eyes. Life has come to her in exchange for everything. Many have called this immediate response to survival as the ‘honeymoon stage’. Which doesn’t not last long in most cases. That is, the mind will react anew when the person becomes aware of the situation surrounding him, when he learns about the damage or destruction that took place.

In the case of this girl, it was very likely to happen. But of course, we did not want her to go through any more trauma. Sadly, we always have to keep in mind the reality. We can not turn a blind eye to the inevitable, rather we have to face it with courage.

by M.M.A. Shalahuddin Qusar,
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry

The published opinion is the author’s own. The author’s opinion may be different than the editorial policy or opinion of ConcernMind. Therefore, the authority will not take any legal or any other kind of responsibility regarding the content of the column published in the news or its validity.

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