"The quick response by the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I needed, in my opinion, saved my life,” Dickey said, per CNN
An international rescue operation to get an American caver out of one of Turkey’s deepest caves ended successfully Tuesday, over a week after he became ill while on an expedition.
The Turkish Caving Federation announced Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that experienced caver Mark Dickey had finally gotten out of the Morca cave — the third-deepest cave in Turkey — with the help of the rescue team in the middle of the night, around 12:37 a.m. local time.
He was then placed in a National Medical Rescue Team tent and transported to the hospital via helicopter at 1:50 a.m., per the Turkish Caving Federation.
Dickey, 40, told media outside the tent after his rescue that it was “amazing to be above ground again” and that he “was underground far longer than ever expected," according to CNN.
“I don’t quite know what’s happened but I do know that the quick response by the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I needed, in my opinion, saved my life,” he added, per the outlet. “I was very close to the edge.”
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— Türkiye Mağaracılık Federasyonu (@tumaf1) September 12, 2023
Dickey said, per the BBC, that at one point he "start(ed) throwing up blood and blood [was] coming out in more quantity."
"Then my consciousness started to get harder to hold on to and I reached a point where I said, 'I'm not going to live,’ " he added, reiterating how he felt prior to the rescue.
Dickey had set out on an expedition into the cave to map out a new passage when he experienced "severe gastric pain," according to a European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) news release posted on Thursday.
He had been in the cave at a depth of about 3,675 feet when he fell ill and was brought to a base camp at 3,412 feet as they launched a rescue operation, per CNN.
Doctors at the base camp said it was “not possible for him to climb out on his own,” and help would be needed to bring Dickey back to the entrance of the cave due to “narrow winding passages and several rappels,” per tweets from the Turkish Caving Federation.
Between Sunday and Wednesday, teams from the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service and Bulgarian Cave Rescue had arrived on the scene, with Italian, Croatian and Polish teams also converging later in the week to aid in the rescue, per the ECRA.
A Friday report from the Washington Post said that around 200 caving experts have flown in to help Dickey in his ascent back to the surface.
Gretchen Baker, from the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC), told CNN last week that they anticipated it would “take days to get him out of the cave” due to its narrow passages and vertical shafts.
After Dickey’s rescue, his parents, Debbie and Andy, expressed their gratitude to the rescuers, saying in a statement to BBC that the news that their son was safe was “indescribably relieving” and filled them “with incredible joy.”
"Mark is strong and we believe in his strength, but fully knew that he was in dire need of tremendous and immediate support," they said in the statement. "We are so very thankful and grateful that the support he needed was given to him and that the first medical rescue team to arrive reached him when they did."
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