Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga, who says he spent 14 months adrift on the Pacific Ocean, has developed a serious phobia of the sea, his doctors said Thursday.
"He does not want to hear about the ocean," Dr. Fredy Sermeño told reporters at San Rafael Hospital in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. "He has real avoidant behavior. He wants to avoid facing the ocean as much as possible and his symptoms are truly post-traumatic."
Alvarenga, 37, wrote a short note about his ordeal, complete with a simple pen drawing of himself with the long, shaggy hair he was sporting when he washed up on the remote Marshall Islands last month.
"The first day I was afraid, but I turned to God and God listened," he said.
The shark fisherman says he and a friend were swept out to sea by a storm off the coast of Mexico in November 2012. His buddy starved to death, but Alvarenga survived on raw fish and his own urine, he has told officials.
"He doesn’t have a serious mental disorder. That’s what we were afraid of, that he would have a defect in his thinking, his perceptions," Sermeño said.
"It’s been ruled out that he’s having delusions. It’s been ruled out that he’s having hallucinations, but he does have a mental exhaustion that’s a product of the chronic stress, the fear of death for many months. "
His appetite, however, seems healthy. He's been eating pupusas, beans and sweet bread with no problem.
Doctors said they will know this week when Alvarenga is ready to return to his rural hometown of Garita Palmera, which he left for Mexico 15 years ago and has not visited in eight years.
— Daniella Silva
Jose Alvarenga’s handwritten note
First published February 13 2014, 2:54 PM