Mark Dickey spent 12 days more than 3,400 feet underground in a Turkish cave after he fell ill on August 31
American caver Mark Dickey is giving thanks to his fiancée, who played a pivotal role in saving his life.
“I’m alive because of the rescuers but she is the one that saved my life initially,” Dickey said about Jessica Van Ord in an interview with ABC News, which aired on Good Morning America Thursday.
He added, “She is one hell of a woman, one hell of a caver, one hell of a rescuer, one hell of a paramedic and she’s awesome.”
The 40-year-old New Jersey native was trapped in the Morca cave — the third-deepest cave in Turkey — for over a week after he became ill while on an expedition when he experienced gastrointestinal bleeding, according to NBC News.
Throughout the entire 12-day ordeal, he told GMA he always "knew I would get to the surface," but the logistics surrounding getting him aid — including life-saving medications — weighed heavily on him. And that’s where Van Ord, who had accompanied him on the expedition, sprang into action.
"I knew we had to get the ball rolling if there was going to be a rescue and to have treatment started," Van Ord told ABC News in an interview on Wednesday.
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Van Ord, who is also a paramedic, knew that her fiancé was suffering from internal bleeding based on his symptoms, so she made the tough decision to leave his side and to climb to the surface in a harrowing, hours-long ordeal.
Teams from the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service and Bulgarian Cave Rescue soon arrived on the scene, with Italian, Croatian and Polish teams also converging later in the week to aid in the rescue, according to a European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) news release.
By last Friday, around 200 caving experts had flown in to help Dickey in his ascent back to the surface, according to The Washington Post.
Upon reaching safe ground, Dickey was hospitalized in intensive care in the city of Mersin. Now in stable condition, doctors are currently running more tests to determine exactly what happened, he said on GMA.
But despite the good outcome, looking back at his arduous rescue, Dickey said he nearly lost hope.
“There’s lots of different medical terminology, but ‘circling the drain’ is one of them, and I was down pretty deep in that drain, “ Dickey said on the Today show Thursday.
He added, “I was down to single-word communication, I was in a fetal position, barely moving.”
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