Surviving miner showing improvement

Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 11:56 p.m.
PITTSBURGH - The critically injured sole survivor of the West Virginia coal mine explosion showed dramatic improvement Saturday and was stable enough that he was flown back to a hospital closer to his home, doctors said.
Randal McCloy Jr. has been in a medically induced coma to allow his brain time to heal, but when the medication is eased, his eyes flicker and he bites down on his breathing tube, showing he is "awake underneath our coma," said Dr. Richard Shannon of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
"We think that he is clinically stable," Shannon said Saturday afternoon. "He is not out of the woods yet. There are still issues. This is going to be a long recovery."
McCloy, of Simpson, W.Va., was rescued early Wednesday after being trapped in the Sago Mine near Tallmansville, W.Va., for about 42 hours. Twelve other men who were inside the mine with him died.
The 26-year-old survivor was transferred to Pittsburgh on Thursday for treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which bombards the body with oxygen to battle carbon monoxide poisoning.
On Saturday night, still heavily sedated, McCloy was strapped to a gurney and loaded into a helicopter for the short flight back to West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. Four medical technicians accompanied him.
Shannon said doctors did not see any benefit from further treatment in the hyperbaric chamber.
"I think there's a lot of personal interest in Mr. McCloy getting back to West Virginia," he added.
McCloy's injured muscles are improving, along with his liver and heart function, and tests show reduced brain swelling and bleeding, the doctor said.
However, he said the young miner will need dialysis for the foreseeable future to repair his kidneys, and he will need significant ventilator support.
McCloy's youth improves his chance of recovery, though his overall neurologic condition will remain unclear until he can be removed from the ventilator, doctors said.
"There is certainly evidence of neurologic damage," Shannon said. "The question that can't be answered is the clinical consequences of that."

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