"The tests I had at Chilean Safety Association showed that I have silicosis," Yonni Barrios, 51, told Las Ultimas Noticias newspaper.
"It is normally around this age that silicosis is detected. As it is a progressive illness, I am not sure if I will make it to retirement or if I will die."
Barrios has worked for 30 years down the mines, and during the workers' lengthy ordeal at the San Jose mine last year, his knowledge of basic medicine saw him play the role of nurse to the group as they awaited their rescue.
|Chilean miner Yonni Barrios (C) is helped by rescuers after being brought to the surface from the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile on October 13, 2010|
During their long confinement from August 5 to October 13, he kept medical records on his co-workers and even administered shots to protect them from infection in the dank, dark underground conditions.
He also gained notoriety as both his wife and his mistress maintained an anxious vigil for him on the surface, during the huge, complex rescue operation.
Silicosis is a serious illness of the lungs caused by lengthy exposure to crystalline silica dust in mines. The inhaled dust builds up in the lungs and causes breathing difficulties. The outcome ultimately depends on how badly the lungs have been damaged.