When the Wild Boars football team was located deep inside the cave, after being missing for a week, the Adelaide anaesthetist abandoned his holiday in Thailand and volunteered to help.
The Australian doctor made the challenging swim through the extensive network of flooded tunnels to ensure the children - none of whom had any dive training - were physically up to the 1.7km trek out.
The global bid to extract the team garnered attention from around the world after the team found themselves trapped on June 23 when they entered the cave after practice and were blocked by floodwaters.
The boys were described as generally being in normal condition in a Chiang Rai hospital Thursday, though their levels of recuperation varied because they were removed from the cave over three days.
"[He] is an extraordinary Australian and he has certainly made a big difference to the rescue effort here in Thailand", she said.
Australian media said he put his own life at risk to venture four kilometres into the flooded cave to medically assess the 12 boys and their coach. Three of the five in the last group have fevers that are easing, and three have middle ear infections.
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The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains soon filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape.
"We would like to thank everyone for the messages of support we have received following the successful extraction of the team and Royal Thai Navy Seals from the cave", the statement reads.
"He was an integral part of the rescue attempt", said Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop who added that the doctor was internationally renowned for his cave rescue expertise. He lauded the cooperation between Thai and global rescuers. "Everyone worked together without discrimination of race or religion as the ultimate goal was to save the youth football team". That's good news for the boys who had said they were looking forward to fried rice with basil.
"To not receive food, we can still survive for many months, but what's necessary is water, which the cave has, and around this time there's a lot in the cave, and they chose clean water to drink", he said.
Harris and Challen were two of 20 Australians involved in the rescue effort. He also acknowledged the loss of a former navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, who died last week while replenishing air tanks inside the cave.