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Miner improving; doctors encouraged

Still 'too early to know' extent of recovery, doctor says

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Sago Mine

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CNN) -- The brain stem of the lone survivor of last week's mine disaster is normal, his liver has recovered most of its function and he moves his arm to ward off painful stimuli, doctors reported Monday morning.

For miner Randy McCloy Jr., "we're generally optimistic, or guardedly optimistic, and encouraged by these small signs," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chief of neurology at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

McCloy is in critical but stable condition, said Dr. Larry Roberts, leading the medical team.

A January 2 explosion at Sago Mine trapped McCloy and 12 other miners who died.

During 41 hours underground, McCloy suffered a collapsed lung, sustained some organ damage and inhaled coal dust and the toxic gases carbon monoxide and methane.

Carbon monoxide intoxication killed the 12 men with him, officials said.

McCloy, 26, suffered considerable carbon monoxide poisoning, and doctors said his full recovery is not imminent.

"He has a long way to go," said Bailes. "This is not unexpected with his degree of carbon monoxide poisoning."

Sedation has given some of McCloy's functions time to recover and helped keep him comatose, doctors said, but he is not in a medically induced coma.

Until McCloy comes out of a coma, doctors will be unable to assess the full extent of the damage.

Doctors stopped that sedation Sunday, and they are looking for him to steadily emerge from a coma.

He is showing more responses to stimuli such as moving his arm to stop doctors from providing a stimulus that may cause some level of pain, Bailes said.

As the coma lightens, McCloy is moving all his extremities, and his "brain stem appears to be completely normal," Bailes said.

Roberts said McCloy would undergo "some aggressive physical therapy" Monday to get all his muscle groups moving.

McCloy is in "sort of a very moderate coma," with "no appreciable brain swelling any more," and his brain stem and pupil function are working, Bailes added.

Roberts said McCloy's liver "appears to have recovered most of its function " and he is breathing on his own, with the ventilator providing just the oxygen and a bit of pressure.

"Most of his organs continue to head in the right direction," Roberts said."

McCloy has developed a fever, "which is a common occurrence at this stage in any patient's intensive care unit course," said Roberts, adding that doctors will investigate the cause and treat it.

Roberts said he believes comatose patients perceive the presence of family and friends, and McCloy's wife, Anna, is spending a great deal of time with him.

McCloy spent three days at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh before being moved Saturday night to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, part of the University of West Virginia Hospitals system.

At Allegheny, he underwent three hyperbaric oxygen treatments during which he was immersed in pressurized oxygen in an effort to reverse the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and oxygen deprivation.

His doctor at Allegheny said McCloy was "doing exceptionally well" before he was taken back to Morgantown, about 75 miles away.

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