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Published: Sunday, 1/8/2006

Surviving miner returns to W.Va.


PITTSBURGH - Randal McCloy, Jr., returned by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., yesterday, his doctors here confident that the miner's recovery can continue there.

"He is not out of the woods," said Dr. Richard Shannon, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Allegheny General. "This has been a long three days, and this is going to be a long recovery. But he has tolerated treatment exceptionally well."

Mr. McCloy, the 26-year-old survivor of the Sago mine explosion on Jan. 2 in Tallmansville, W.Va., was showing signs of improved brain stem and organ function, said Dr. Shannon. "He has begun to flicker his eyelashes, he bites on a tube, and his attempts to swallow are developing." Mr. McCloy was also breathing with "much reduced support," he said.

Mr. McCloy, who was brought to Pittsburgh on Thursday from Ruby Memorial, underwent his third hyperbaric oxygen treatment yesterday. The hyperbaric chamber is a specialty treatment that doctors at Ruby had requested of Allegheny General.

A CAT scan yesterday showed improvement in the condition of the brain's white matter, which had been hemorrhaging.

and indicated edema, or swelling. The edema is improving and the hemorrhaging is not worse, said Dr. Shannon. The progress "may be a result of natural healing or the steroids," he said.

"His muscle injury continues to resolve, liver function continues to improve, as well as the function of the heart. I feel confident with his clinical condition that he can be moved. If I did not believe he was clinically stable," he wouldn't be moved, Dr Shannon said.

Mr. McCloy will need to be ventilated and dialyzed "for the forseeable future," he said. None of Mr. McCloy's functions is normal, but his progress so far makes it easier to hope they will be, he said. The patient's cardiac output, blood pressure and heart rate are "absolutely normal."

He said the experience of having Mr. McCloy as a patient and seeing the outpouring of support from family as well as strangers "has been heartwarming."

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