SIMPSON, W.Va. – Randal McCloy Jr. was enveloped in loving chaos when he came home Thursday, with kids blowing noisemakers, a crowd of family and friends and his street festooned with handmade signs, red balloons and streamers.
It seemed a little overwhelming not only to the “miracle miner,” the only survivor among 13 men trapped by an underground explosion in January, but also to his 1-year-old daughter, Isabel. Her wailing didn’t subside until she sat on her father’s lap – much thinner than it used to be.
McCloy’s homecoming is a wonder to his doctors, who first feared he wouldn’t survive and later expected his recovery to take about twice as long as it did. His family was just as surprised: A ramp built for him was finished only this week.
“I thank God, mostly,” McCloy said as he sat on his living room sofa, family milling around. “Because of him, I am here.”
McCloy, trapped in the Jan. 2 explosion at the Sago Mine with a dozen fellow miners, was the only one carried out alive. Doctors still cannot fully explain how he survived 41 hours of carbon monoxide exposure before his rescue.
He was placed in a medically induced coma and given pure oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber at a Pittsburgh hospital as doctors helped his organs recover. It took weeks for him to start talking again, but since then he has made huge gains through intensive therapy at a Morgantown rehabilitation hospital, recovering from a severe brain injury and regaining his physical strength.
“It’s still amazing, still astonishing,” said Dr. Russell Biundo, medical director at HealthSouth Mountainview Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s basically almost like he was resurrected.”
McCloy chose his words carefully at a news conference at the hospital with his wife, Anna.
“I’d just like to thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers,” he said softly. He paused, then added, “I believe that’s it.”
An hour later he arrived at his gray and blue trailer in Simpson. Missy McGee, Anna McCloy’s sister, said she knew he would enjoy the fuss waiting for him there.
“He used to be the quiet type, but since this has happened, he’s been very, very verbal,” said McGee, whose husband has been with the McCloys nonstop since the 26-year-old miner was rescued.
Anna McCloy said her family was happy to be going home, but remembers the families of the miners who died. “There are 12 families who are in our thoughts and prayers today and every day,” she said.