A researcher who spent 11 days stuck in a Turkish cave after falling ill said Thursday he thought he would die there before a complex international rescue operation pulled him out.
Mark Dickey, 40, appeared relaxed as he spoke to reporters at a hospital in Mersin, southern Turkey, where he is recovering from his ordeal.
Asked if he ever lost hope while trapped 1,000 meters underground, Dickey replied: “No. But there’s a difference between accurately recognizing current risk and giving up.
“You don’t let things become hopeless, but you acknowledge the fact that ‘I’m going to die.’”
Dickey fell ill on September 2 with a stomach hemorrhage while mapping the Morca Cave in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. He vomited blood and had lost large amounts of blood and other fluids when rescuers brought him to the surface on Tuesday.
What caused his condition, which made him too frail to leave the cave on his own, was unclear.
Dressed in a blue T-shirt and with an IV plug attached to his hand, the experienced New York caver thanked the Turkish government for acting “swiftly and decisively” to obtain the medical supplies needed to support him in the cave.
He also praised the international effort to save it. Teams from Turkey and several European countries mounted a challenging operation that involved lifting the boy up steep vertical sections of the cave and navigating mud and cold water in horizontal sections.
“This honestly was an amazing rescue,” said Dickey, who is also an experienced underground rescuer. “This was an extraordinary example of international collaboration, of what we can do together as a country, as a world.”
Commenting on the “insane” public attention to his rescue, he added: “I’m really lucky to be alive. It was a difficult time. While I was trapped underground – I was trapped for 11 days – I discovered that there was a nation watching, hoping and praying for me to survive: Turkey.”
In a later interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” show, Dickey recalled the moment he cleared the cave entrance.
“I was happy to come up to the surface, see those stars and smell the fresh air. It was a beautiful moment,” she said.
He also paid tribute to his fiancée Jessica Van Ord, who accompanied him on the expedition and left to obtain medical products to be administered in the cave.
“She was able to get out, she came back with medical supplies,” Dickey told the station. “The moment she walked into that thousand meter cave camp with four bags of fluid, it was a game changer.
“It saved my life, period,” he continued. “She IS an exceptional woman, an exceptional caver, an exceptional rescuer, an exceptional paramedic. She is amazing.”
Dickey will continue his recovery at Mersin City Hospital. Laughing and joking during his brief press conference on Thursday, he said he would “definitely” continue to explore the caves.
“There is risk in every life and in this case, the medical emergency that occurred was completely unexpected and unknown, and was a one-off,” he said, adding that he would like to return to Morca Cave, the third largest deep of Turkey, to complete his task.x