TURKEY -- The American caver rescued from a Turkish cave earlier this week is speaking out about his ordeal.
Mark Dickey, 40, is from Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County and heads up New Jersey's Initial Response Team. He appeared from his hospital bed in Turkey on "Good Morning America."
He said that he is already on the road to improvement.
"Compared to that seven, ten days ago, I am feeling fantastic," Dickey said.
He was on a research mission in the Morca Cave when he began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding more than a week ago. It's something doctors are still trying to figure out.
"The tests are still ongoing. It's not yet totally conclusive. They've seen some things in there. I have still got tests pending. As far as the recovery goes, every single day I'm getting stronger," he said.
Dickey said he feared he would die in that cave. He had been trapped underground from August 31 to September 11. He credits his partner and fiancée, Jessica, with saving his life. She left to get him the help he needed.
"It got pretty tight at the end there, that I was pretty close to fading. What am I telling myself? Just keep surviving and every moment is another moment they're gonna get back with the necessary medical supplies," he said.
Amazingly, crews worked to reach him more than 3,000 feet below the surface. He received a life-saving blood transfusion, but still couldn't ascend on his own.
"Once you started moving, it was speck spectacular. Every step of the way I had people by my side that I knew would get me out. So getting to the surface wasn't a question. It wasn't like, is this going to happen? Moment of full rescue got there; I knew I would get to the surface. It was fast. It was really fast. Once we started moving, it happened a lot faster than I expected. Man, I was happy to get to the surface and see those stores and smell the fresh air," Dickey said.
The extraction effort involved some 200 rescue workers to whom he is eternally grateful. But of course, one special person as well.
"I'm alive because of the rescuers. I'm the lucky face of all these people who are the real heroes, essentially. But Jessica is the one that saved my life initially," he said. She saved my life period. Her determination to climb out of 1,000 meters, get those medical supplies and get back. That would be multiple days of travel and she did it in under 24. She is one hell of a woman, one hell of a caver, one hell of a rescuer, one hell of a paramedic. She's awesome."