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Mark Dickey’s story of survival

Mark Dickey was more than a half-mile underground when the feeling hit him like a train.

He was dizzy. Nauseated. His insides felt as if they wanted to explode out of him. 

He was also more than halfway up the vertical face of a 300-foot circular rock chimney tucked deep inside a cave that he and others were exploring.

Now, he feared, he might pass out, roped high atop the wall. 

In the damp chill, lit only by headlamps, Dickey called out to fellow caver Jessica Van Ord – who is also his fiance – as she waited for him on a muddy perch about 30 feet up.

“I’m sick,” he told her.

Rescuers pulled an American researcher Mark Dickey out of Morca cave near Anamur, south Turkey, on early Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Teams from across Europe had rushed to Morca cave in southern Turkey's Taurus Mountains to aid Dickey, a 40-year-old experienced caver who became seriously ill on Sept. 2 with stomach bleeding.

It marked the start of an 10-day ordeal for the 41-year-old American caver. He was stuck deep in one of the deepest chasms in the world. His internal bleeding would worsen. His fiance would race 3,000 feet to the surface to save him. He would soon be at the center of a multinational rescue effort that captured global headlines. 

But in that first moment, he told USA TODAY this week, he had no idea what to expect. 

Dickey, an experienced caver who had been the expedition’s rescue leader, had faith in the tight-knit cave rescue community in whose hands his future lay. But he also knew the challenges of such an operation amid the vertical shafts and narrow passages.

As the hours ticked by, he was vomiting more and more blood. With his pulse fading and body weakening, he began fearing the worst.

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