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Mine survivor awakening from coma

'Still a long way to go' for Randal McCloy

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West Virginia
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Sago Mine

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CNN) -- More than two weeks after surviving a West Virginia coal mine explosion and 40 hours trapped underground, Randal McCloy is awakening from his coma, his neurosurgeon said on Wednesday.

"He is opening his eyes," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. "He has purposeful movements. He responds to his family in slight ways. He moves all extremities."

Bailes said McCloy, 26, remains in a "light coma." (Watch how striken miner is awakening from his ordeal -- 2:49)

Asked how McCloy could have survived so long in the mine, his physician Larry Roberts said, "I think it may start with a miracle."

McCloy's family is welcoming his awakening, said family spokeswoman Aly Goodwin Gregg.

"They remain steadfast in focusing on his recovery and that he'll come out of it," she told reporters. "And they are encouraged by the news."

Because McCloy is among the longest-known survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning, Bailes said, "We are, in many ways, in uncharted territory in terms of predicting his recovery. But again we remain cautiously optimistic."

McCloy and 12 other miners were trapped January 2 after an explosion at Sago Mine in Tallmansville. Rescuers did not reach them for 41 hours.

McCloy suffered a collapsed lung, dehydration and carbon monoxide poisoning, which killed the 12 others.

"It has been only within the past several days that he has opened his eyes -- at first only when he was stimulated ... but now it's spontaneous," Bailes said.

"Now if you call his name, he will do it. He will track family members and they believe that he has some level of connectivity with them."

"If you put a piece of ice in his mouth he will take it and move it around with his tongue and swallow it and chew it and swallow it," he said.

"These are, we think, very important signs, perhaps, of an emergence. But we don't want to give false hope and we know that there is still a long way to go to making that recovery," Bailes said.

"Many people with severe carbon monoxide poisoning end up with severe cognitive, personality, memory, visual, motor response" problems, he said.

McCloy was moved out of the intensive care unit at the hospital about two days ago. Roberts said the miner is still undergoing dialysis for kidney damage he suffered. McCloy is breathing on his own and tolerating nutritional supplements being given to him through a feeding tube, he said.

"What we see for Randy in the next couple of weeks is slowly transitioning him to rehabilitation," Roberts said. "And it is very likely that within the next 10 days to two weeks we may be able to move him to a rehabilitation facility for the services that they can provide."

The miners who died were remembered Sunday at a Buckhannon memorial service where more than 1,800 people gathered.(Full story)

McCloy's wife, Anna, attended the memorial service and was the first of the miners' families to light 13 candles of honor. West Virginia first lady Gayle Manchin handed each family a statue of a coal miner.

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