Nightclub Kiss: psychological trauma lingers on survivors

The smile on her face does not show the internal scars of one of the survivors of the fire at the Kiss nightclub, in Santa Maria (RS), ten years ago, which killed 242 people and injured more than 600. Cristiane Clavé, 36, he was home to celebrate a birthday and, on that dramatic night, he lost 15 friends. With no visible signs, Cristiane did not need to be hospitalized, but a persistent cough prompted her to seek medical attention two days after the tragedy.

“I did tests because my cough didn’t go away and as a result an internal burn was found in the lung. So I started the treatment at the Integrated Center for the Assistance of Accident Victims (Ciava) and in that day I follow the pulmonologist. physiotherapy until the end of last year, now I can do swimming and other physical activities”, says Cristiane. “The treatment will last a lifetime. Every three months I return to the center for a series of tests.”

Ciava is a nucleus of the University Hospital of Santa Maria (HUSM), created after the nightclub tragedy. The hospital was the first point of care and understood that it would need to gather enough professionals to provide adequate treatment for the victims. The center helped 602 victims of the fire in an interdisciplinary team of pulmonologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, speech therapists, social workers, psychologists, nurses and others. The center is currently monitoring 25 patients who were at the nightclub on the night of the fire.

According to Cristiane, Ciava professionals provide attentive and fraternal care to patients. According to Cristiane’s assessment, many doctors learned to deal with the condition of the victims and adapted treatment to individual needs.

“The first professionals who treated me treated me like a daughter. One of the doctors explained everything that was happening to me, what procedures were being done. They told me that what was happening was also something complicated for them because, until then, no one had gone through a similar situation. Even the medicine was adjusted over time, as we did tests, many tests, x-rays – everything to assess if there was a need to change the dose of any medicine,” recalls Cristiane.

She says she was in front of the stage where the band was playing and, just before the fire started, she left to go to the bathroom with a friend. When he returned, he saw smoke and what he thought was chaos. When he realized the seriousness of the situation, he tried to leave the nightclub by covering his eyes, mouth and nose, but the toxic smoke reached his lungs.

“I didn’t think it was a fire, it looked like a fight. Immediately afterwards, I saw the tent on fire and a guy trying to put it out with a fire extinguisher. As I went to the door, the smoke came in from the air conditioning system and reached the door before us. So when we got to the exit door, the smoke was already there. It was black hot smoke, and that’s what hit my lung, because there was no fire [por onde passei]”, he remembers. “I stayed a while [envolvida] in the smoke, right on the path between the tent and the exit door, even then the damage was great.”

For the gauchas, the psychological trauma is one of the biggest burdens of the night of the fire. The tragedy caused the death of 242 people and to this day no one accused has been held accountable.

“Next to me were five girls, the so-called Cinderellas. They all died. I’m being treated by a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but I can’t forget. There’s not a day when I don’t remember what I went through. Now, for example, even if I don’t look at the diary, my body seems to know it’s coming [a data]. For three weeks now, I’ve been waking up at the same time every day, without an alarm clock. It’s at the time the fire was happening,” he described. “I lost a lot of my memory, which bothers me in everyday life, but from that day I remember everything, every step I took,” he added.

Cristiane says she is keeping the memory of what happened in honor of the friends who lost their lives and is speaking out about the issue to warn the authorities not to allow another accident like this to happen.

“Today I speak to give a voice to those who can no longer speak. I have a damaged lung and heart. Many times I can barely walk because I am short of breath, but the worst is the feeling. The sadness of having lost people and the feeling that you can’t go back and save a friend who was a hero, he had already gone and gone back to help other people. It was hard, but people need to learn so that this doesn’t happen again.”

Physiotherapist Anna Ourique arrived in Santa Maria three months after the tragedy to help care for fire victims and, ten years later, continues to work at the centre.
“(At that time), the hospital started accepting patients returning from hospitalization in Porto Alegre, mainly those who had been burned, since there was no burn care center here in the city. These patients required further rehabilitation, many had smoke inhalation problems and severe respiratory problems. In addition, we’ve had those with burn sequelae and we know that, when left untreated, they adhere to the skin and impede people’s movements, taking away all functionality,” he explained.

The workload and number of patients have been challenging for frontline care professionals. The demand made the team look for ways to deal with the critical situation. “In the first moment after the tragedy, I already knew that I would have a very challenging job because there were many patients to attend to. In hospitals, we receive many patients, but never at the same time, but in this situation, we receive more and more patients and we have to take care of them all at the same time. It was both a professional and personal experience that brought us great growth. We had to study a lot.” (Brazil Agency)

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