Mine Survivor Could Have Brain Damage, Moved to Pittsburgh Hospital

January 5, 2006

The lone survivor of a coal mine explosion that killed 12 others has been moved to a hospital in Pittsburgh to undergo oxygen treatment, West Virginia University hospital officials said Thursday.

Randal McCloy Jr. was in a coma and appeared to have suffered brain damage, according to a doctor. He was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital, said Bill Case, a spokesman for WVU’s Ruby Memorial Hospital.

“Mr. McCloy’s organ systems have responded fairly well to the treatment he has received over the last 36 hours at WVUH,” said Dr. Larry Roberts, director of WVU’s trauma center. “His left lung is no longer collapsed. But we have not seen the neurological improvement we would like to see.”

McCloy, 26, of Simpson, was rescued early Wednesday after being trapped in the Sago Mine near Tallmansville for more than 42 hours. Twelve other miners died.

McCloy was struggling with the effects of oxygen deprivation to his vital organs, including his brain, and remained in a coma, Dr. John Prescott said Thursday at the WVU hospital.

Prescott said McCloy’s coma is not medically induced and that drugs initially used to sedate him are wearing off.

“We do believe there has been some injury at this point to the brain,” Prescott said.

With the consent of McCloy’s family, doctors decided to transfer him to Pittsburgh for hyperbaric oxygen treatment. The treatment helps get oxygen to the body’s tissues, including the brain, and can help increase blood cells to fight infections or promote healing of injuries.

Relatives called McCloy a quiet family man who would likely cringe at his status as the “miracle miner.” They said he did not like working in the mines but stuck it out for three years because it enabled him to provide for his wife and two children, 4-year-old Randal III and 1-year-old Isabel.

“I know he was fighting to stay alive for his family because his family was his No. 1 priority,” said Rick McGee, McCloy’s brother-in-law and a fellow miner who lives next door to McCloy in Simpson, a small town about 35 miles southeast of Morgantown.

He was the youngest of the 13 miners. Most of the others were in their 50s, and doctors said his youth and health may have helped him.

“When most people are drinking pop, he’s drinking milk and juice. He’s in good shape. That had to have helped him,” said McGee, who has known McCloy for 12 years.

McGee says McCloy likes to pass the time walking in the woods looking for deer.

“He is a typical guy – liked hunting, fishing, sports, fast cars,” McGee said.

Ben Hatfield, president and CEO of International Coal Group, which owns the mine, guessed that McCoy may have been deeper in a barricaded area that he and 11 other miners created after the explosion early Monday, and therefore farther from toxic gases. The 13th miner died in another location.

McCloy’s wife, Anna, looking pale and exhausted, attended a news conference at the hospital Wednesday but did not answer questions.
“Just ask everybody to keep on praying,” she said.

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