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  • January 1961, and a family of five Chinese citizens have left their village and are on

  • the road.

  • What they've left behind is utter devastation.

  • What's in front of them is most likely death.

  • First, they lost their home after it was torn down for scrap.

  • Then, after the little food in the village ran out, they ate bark from the trees and

  • mud from the ground.

  • On their perilous journey to find something to eat, they sell most of their clothes for

  • morsels of food.

  • They don't have any boots, having stewed and eaten them already.

  • Just the other day a man offered to buy one of their children for a bowl of rice.

  • That didn't happen, but those kids are already showing distended bellies.

  • It is only a matter of time until starvation finishes them – a terrible way to die.

  • Today you'll hear all about how that happens and when it's happened.

  • That story we just told you actually happened to scores of Chinese peasants back then.

  • While we didn't choose one particular family, we based the story on events from the book,

  • Mao's Great Famine.”

  • The book was mostly written after the author searched the Chinese government and local

  • government archives, but some of those starving kids did live to tell the tale of the horror

  • that killed around 45 million people.

  • One of those people, now an elderly woman, was asked in an interview, “How did your

  • sister die?”

  • The woman replied, “She starved.”

  • She adds, “My brother's name was Xiang WaHe starved to death.”

  • The woman then makes a small circle with her thumb and finger and says to the camera, “His

  • arms were this thin.”

  • Millions died like this, in what's been called the single biggest famine the world

  • has ever seen.

  • In that book we just mentioned, there are plenty of details of what it's like to be

  • on the brink of dying from starvation.

  • Not surprisingly, the lack of food makes people very ill, but as that happens desperation

  • like nothing else sets in.

  • It can be a long-drawn-out way to die.

  • People really did eat bark, so you could walk into one village and just stare out at a wasteland

  • of stripped trees.

  • Some people ate shoots from the ground, and when they weren't available, they resorted

  • to eating mud.

  • When you are starving, you'll eat almost anything.

  • Mao Zedong's so-calledGreat Leap Forwardleft peasants with no crops, and even if little

  • was grown, it would often be shipped off.

  • If people complained or refused to work, or even got sick from lack of nutrition, they

  • could be beaten to death or face severe punishment.

  • In a village in Hunan, a young boy stole a handful of grain.

  • As punishment, the local boss Xiong Changming forced the father to bury that kid alive.

  • The father died soon after from what was stated asgrief”.

  • We are giving you that example because we want to show you just how desperate starvation

  • makes people.

  • That kid wasn't naughty, he was famished and dying.

  • Everyone knew the consequences if they caught stealing but some people still took the risk.

  • In other cases, when people died, they were eaten, sometimes by family members.

  • Of course, it destroyed them to do such a thing, but one tries to hold on to life as

  • long as one canespecially if you have children to protect.

  • There were many cases of people being exhumed and their rotten bodies feasted on.

  • In some cases, the starving went for the internal organs, likely because they were in a better

  • state than some other parts of the body.

  • In one of the archives dated 25 February 1960, it says a man named Yang Zhongsheng from Hongtai

  • commune, Yaohejia village, killed Yang Ershun.

  • Status: poor farmer.

  • Relationship with victim: brother.

  • Manner of crime: killed and eaten.

  • Reason: livelihood issues.

  • With that in mind, we can safely say that not many people in this world truly know what

  • it's like to really starve.

  • Before we talk about what actually happens to the body, let's have a look at some more

  • real-life cases of people starving to death.

  • There was a case not that long ago in the US where a 14-year old boy was kept in a basement

  • and hardly fed anything at all for many weeks.

  • When he was found, still alive, he weighed only 55 pounds (25 kg).

  • A news report said this about the state he was in:

  • He was severely and chronically malnourished, dehydrated, suffering from acute respiratory

  • distress, shock, hypothermia, and hypothyroidism.”

  • He was covered in sores and other wounds and wasn't even able to speak.

  • It was only after being connected to breathing and eating tubes that he began to recover,

  • but it was touch and go for a while regarding whether he'd make it.

  • Basically, his body was shutting down.

  • His organs were failing.

  • He was eating himself from the inside.

  • There were more famines, where people died like that on a large scale.

  • The Great Famine in Ireland killed many from starvation and a lot of more from diseases

  • brought on by a lack of nutrition.

  • Sometimes this period is called, “The Great Hungeror theThe Great Starvation.”

  • One man who went over to Ireland to try and help wrote this:

  • No pen can describe the distress by which I am surrounded.

  • It has actually reached such a degree of lamentable extreme that it becomes above the power of

  • exaggeration and misapprehension.”

  • Over a million people starved to death or died from a famine-related illness.

  • People fled to the cities, with one person calling those people, “walking masses of

  • filth, vermin, and sickness.”

  • You've all likely seen what starvation looks like because you've seen images of famines

  • in Africa, or perhaps you've seen photos of Soviet prisoners in German prison camps

  • during the war.

  • And of course, you've seen the terrible state Jewish prisoners were in when they were

  • found barely alive in concentration camps.

  • Because of such images, you'll know that people who are starving don't always look

  • like they are suffering from acute pain.

  • Instead, they often look listless, gaunt, so weak that they can hardly move or even

  • speak.

  • So, what is actually happening to them?

  • Ok, so during the Chinese great famine the people who were most at risk were children

  • and old people.

  • The reason for that was children don't have as much stored fat as adults and so they wasted

  • away first.

  • Old people were also at times very frail and due to their age more vulnerable to disease

  • and infections.

  • According to scientists, how people react to starvation, whether young or old, can be

  • very different.

  • Some people might be more irritable, while others might be more lethargic.

  • One thing that happens to everyone is the brain becomes damaged over time, but at the

  • beginning, it's more likely people will just start having problems concentrating.

  • There are different phases of starvation, with the first stage being what people experience

  • when they are fasting.

  • During this stage, the liver produces something called glycogen and this maintains blood glucose

  • levels.

  • The thing is, your liver can only produce enough glycogen for a few hours.

  • After that, the body starts looking for glucose somewhere elsenamely in the breakdown

  • of fats and proteins.

  • So, in the case of a starving person, they either have no food or just morsels of food

  • each day.

  • Even if they have some crumbs to eat, it's not enough to give the body the energy it

  • needs to function.

  • That's why the lethargy starts and why the brain can become muddled.

  • In simple terms, there's just not enough gas in the tank to keep the machine running.

  • But as you know, if a human has water, they can survive without food for quite some time.

  • People actually pay to do 30-day water fasts under supervision.

  • People have gone on hunger strikes for much longer.

  • For instance, imprisoned IRA member Bobby Sands lasted 66 days before he died.

  • The coroner wrote that the cause of death wasstarvation, self-imposed.”

  • How long can we survive without food?

  • Well, it all depends on the person who's not eating and the environment they are in,

  • but an often-cited article in the British Medical Journal said that using data from

  • hunger strikes most people become severely ill around the 21 to the 40-day mark.

  • That's a big difference, but then some people have much more fat in reserve than others.

  • As for those Chinese peasants, many of them were forced to work while starving.

  • The upshot of that was they often collapsed and died in the fields.

  • During the second phase of starvation, the body uses stored fat as energy.

  • This happens when the liver turns fat into something called ketones.

  • But as the fat is stripped from the body, the body then starts taking proteins and turning

  • them into the glucose that the brain needs.

  • The muscles waste away and so do other body tissues.

  • This is all to feed the brain, which has led some people to say that the body starts to

  • cannibalize itself in order to keep the brain functioning.

  • At this point, the heart has to work really hard because blood pressure is low.

  • At the same time, the person becomes emaciated.

  • As those proteins are taken from tissues and blood vessels, fluids can start leaking.

  • This can make the face, legs, and arms start to swell, as well as the stomach.

  • This is callededemaand when it's bad it can become really hard to move around.

  • When the bloating is in the belly it is calledkwashiorkor.”

  • One Chinese survivor of the famine described it like this:

  • “I was the first to come down with a serious case of edema.

  • I became emaciated, my ankles swelled, and my legs got so weak I often fell while walking

  • to the fields for forced labor.”

  • To make matters worse, people were beaten in this state, and that could result in leakage.

  • There was a common saying among Chinese peasants along the lines of they werebeaten until

  • all the water came out.”

  • When the local cadres hit them with batons, that's what happened.

  • There's another condition related to lack of insufficient calorie intake known asmarasmus

  • which comes from the wordwithering.”

  • These people might have shriveled skin and exposed ribs.

  • Their throat might become so dry they can hardly speak.

  • They might just curl up into a ball on the floor as their facial skin seems to lose its

  • elasticity.

  • At this point, with eyes bulging, they may look as if they have been stripped of their

  • thoughts.

  • They are close to death.

  • With marasmus, there's something called a point of no return, which means even if

  • they received food they would still die.

  • Their hair might change color and then fall out, and at the same time, the skin might

  • become scaly and just flake off.

  • With all those tissues and organs breaking down they are super-susceptible to disease,

  • which is likely what will finish them off if infection doesn't.

  • Even if the person is somehow brought back from the dead, it's possible they will have

  • suffered irreparable brain damage.

  • One interesting case we found was from 1993 when a woman in a hospital dying of cancer

  • said she just wanted it over with and asked not to be given any food and drink.

  • She was observed by Dr. Robert Sullivan who worked at Duke University Medical Center.

  • The strange thing is, the doctor noted that during the final stages of this woman's

  • life she didn't feel any pain, although it must be said she may also have been taking

  • painkillers.

  • Nonetheless, once she had totally given herself up to death, she was chatty on the way out

  • and then one day slipped into a coma and died after her organs failed.

  • Still, it's the ones who survive on little bits of food who hurt the mostmentally

  • and physically.

  • According to that doctor, being ravenous all the time and trying to make it to the next

  • day is incredibly painful.

  • Starvation can lead to all sorts of ailments, including chronic watery diarrhea, fever,

  • disease, bleeding under the skin, loss of eyesight, hallucinations, convulsions, skin

  • conditions, and irritation in many regions of the body.

  • It's just during those very last stages when someone has nothing left in them they

  • seem to resign themselves to death and perhaps some of the pain recedes.

  • In the Holocaust, Jewish prisoners were fed very, very little and they soon became terribly

  • emaciated.

  • Some of those people in the very last stages were said to lose their will to live and even

  • seemed apathetic about death.

  • The name given to these people was, “Muselmann.”

  • Holocaust survivor and writer, Primo Levi, described them like this:

  • Non-men who march and labor in silence, the divine spark dead within them, already

  • too empty to really suffer.

  • One hesitates to call them living: one hesitates to call their death, death, in the face of

  • which they have no fear, as they are too tired to understand.”

  • You can only imagine the absolute pain and turmoil a person would have to endure to get

  • to this point.

  • As you've seen today, people can hang on through the most unimaginable tortures, but

  • little by little the body breaks down and the brain accepts that there's no turning

  • back.

  • This is why it's one of the worst ways to die.

  • Now you need to watch, “Impalement - Worst Ways to Die.”

  • Or, have a look at this...

January 1961, and a family of five Chinese citizens have left their village and are on

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Starve to Death - Worst Ways to Die in the History of Mankind

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/05
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