An ailing American cave explorer may soon be rescued
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Rescue teams were waiting for doctors to give the green light on Friday to perform surgery to transport an American researcher who fell ill more than 3,000 feet below the entrance to a cave in Turkey, officials said. The effort can last up to 10 days.
Mark Dickey, a 40-year-old experienced caveman, suddenly fell ill with a bleeding stomach while on an expedition with a handful of others into Murca Cave in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. Rescuers from all over Europe rushed there to help Dickie out, including doctors who treated him inside the cave. The cause of his illness remains unclear.
“The moment we get the green light from the medical team, we will start the evacuation,” Recep Salci, head of the search and rescue department at Turkey’s Disaster Relief Agency (AFAD), told the Associated Press.
Tolga Siner, the doctor and medical coordinator of the rescue operation, said that preparations have been completed, and that rescue teams have set up small “medical camps” at different levels along the shaft as well as a “small laboratory” to monitor Dicky’s condition.
Siner told the AP that doctors would help him all the way to the cave. “If the doctor there gives approval, the transfer will begin as soon as possible.”
Rescuers believe Dickie will have to stop and rest frequently at various points along the way.
Salsi said the duration of the rescue will depend on whether Dickie can get out on his own with the help of rescuers, or — if his condition worsens — on a stretcher.
“If he comes in on a stretcher, he could last 10 days. If he is helped, we plan to bring him back in four or five days,” Salesi said.
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The European Cave Rescue Association said on its website, Friday, that the cave has been divided into seven sections, with different rescue teams responsible for each of the levels below the cave. She added that communication lines inside the cave have also been improved.
The cave is one of the deepest in the world, according to Federico Catania, spokesman for the National Alpine Rescue and Excavation Service in Rome, who said he believed Dickie would need to be carried on a stretcher.
“The cave consists of many vertical shafts, and many of the sections are very vertical with a few horizontal sections, where rescuers set up temporary camps,” he said.
Giuseppe Conte, coordinator of the Italian rescue group, told the Associated Press near the entrance to Murca that “the cave is very complex” and that doctors must stabilize Dickie’s condition in order to allow a quick rescue.
Officials said doctors gave Dickey IV fluids and 4 liters of blood inside the cave. Teams of a doctor and three or four others take turns staying with the American at all times.
More than 170 people are participating in the rescue operation, including experienced doctors, paramedics and cave researchers. Rescue teams from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Turkey are participating in these efforts.
The Italian organization said that six rescuers, including a doctor and a nurse, arrived in Diki during the night. The team planned to work on keeping him stable for 15-20 hours before he was replaced by another team. The group said that small camps set up at different levels inside the cave provide doctors, nurses and technicians with a place to rest.
Turkish authorities made available a video message that showed Diki standing and moving on Thursday. While he was alerted and talking, he said that he was not “healed from the inside” and needed a lot of help to get out of the cave.
He thanked the cave community and the Turkish government for their efforts to save him.
“The cave world is a really tight-knit group, and it’s amazing to see how many people responded on the surface,” Dickey said in the video. “I know that the Turkish government’s quick response to get the medical supplies I needed, in my opinion, saved my life. I was so close to the edge.”
The New Jersey-based cave rescue group, to which Dickey belongs, said he was bleeding and losing fluids from his stomach but had stopped vomiting and eating for the first time in days.
Dickie has been described by the European Association of Cave Rescuers as a “highly trained caver and cave rescuer himself” and is well known as a cave researcher, or speleologist, through his participation in numerous international expeditions. He is the secretary of the medical committee of the association.
The researcher was on an expedition mapping the 4,186-foot-deep Murca cave system for the Anatolian Speleological Group Association, when he encountered a problem at a depth of about 3,000 feet, according to Yusuf Ugrencik of the Cave Federation of Turkey. He first became ill on September 2, but it took until the morning of September 3 to notify others who were above ground.
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