MAJURO, Marshall Islands: Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga was ordered to rest on Friday after being hospitalized with a health scare, as a senior diplomat said all evidence so far verified his amazing story.
Alvarenga, who says he spent more than a year adrift in the Pacific, was originally due to leave the Marshall Islands for his native El Salvador on Friday, but officials pushed his departure back until early next week after doctors ruled he was too weak to fly.
He was admitted to Majuro Hospital on Thursday evening suffering back pain and swelling in his lower extremities, a hospital official said.
“He was discharged today [Friday] and given vitamins and medicine, and urged to drink plenty of fluid and rest,” the official added, saying blood tests showed results consistent with dehydration and excessive meat consumption.
Doctors have scheduled a follow-up appointment for Alvarenga on Monday, meaning the earliest he is expected to leave the Marshalls is on a flight to Honolulu that night.
Christian Clay Mendoza, the deputy chief of mission at the Mexican embassy in Manila who is organizing his repatriation, said such health issues were not unusual when someone had gone through such an ordeal.
“It seems that when you’re in this situation you can go up and down,” Mendoza said in the Marshalls capital Majuro on Thursday.
Alvarenga had to be helped to his seat at a brief press conference on Thursday and spoke in a dull monotone, contrasting with his upbeat demeanor upon arrival in Majuro earlier in the week, when he waved to onlookers and shouted “Hola, hola.”
At the time, doctors examined him and released him after barely 24 hours in hospital.
True story, so far
The 37-year-old’s good health had fuelled skepticism about his claims, but Mendoza said his story about a 12,500-kilometer (8,000-mile) odyssey across the northern Pacific had checked out.
“So far, what he has told us has been the truth,” he said. “He gave us his name, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, and that is correct. He put us in touch with his family in El Salvador . . . and they corroborated his story.
“Now we’re trying to contact in Mexico the person he tells us was the boss of his fishing cooperative to get their side of the story, but so far what he has said has jibed [with the truth].”
Survival experts have said Alvarenga’s tale of staying live on a diet of raw fish and birds while drinking turtle blood, urine and rainwater was possible.
Mendoza said there was some discrepancy between the date Alvarenga says he set off from Mexico on a fishing trip and when exactly in 2012 Mexican authorities launched a search for his boat, but it was understandable in the circumstances.
“The main question now is how long was he really at sea?” he said. “I guess when you’re out there so long you lose track of time and so he doesn’t even know himself.”
Alvarenga said this week that he left his fishing village in late December 2012 with a young man named Ezequiel, who starved to death four months into the ordeal because he could not stomach the makeshift diet.
Fishermen in the village of Chocohuital said this week that Alvarenga’s seven-meter (24-foot) fibreglass boat went missing in November 2012, not December.