Thursday, March 30, 2006
A true medical miracle
As doctors, we don't like to use the term "miracle" too much.

Truth is if you look hard enough you will find a reasonable explanation as to why one person survives, when so many others die. When Randy McCloy was pulled out of the Sago Mine and subsequently examined at the hospital, I could tell the doctors weren't too optimistic.

I traveled to West Virginia and they told me that too much carbon monoxide had invaded his blood stream, and for too long. That carbon monoxide had stripped away precious oxygen from his brain and caused what could best be described as a stroke of his whole brain. The fact that he was alive was remarkable and perhaps best attributed to his young age and associated resilience.

Then, over the last three months, there were incremental rays of hope. In what seemed a last ditch effort, Randy was transported to another hospital and was placed in a hyperbaric chamber, the same kind used to treat scuba divers when they get the Bends.

The idea was to force the oxygen into his blood stream and knock some of the lingering carbon monoxide out. He was also given DHA, a fatty acid, with the idea that it could rebuild the coating around some of his severely damaged nerve connections. Slowly, Randy started to awaken. A move here and there, a slight utterance that might be a word. And then today, I sat reveling with all of you as I watched him walk out under his own power, smile, and hold a news conference.

Sure, he didn't say much and his right arm and leg still seem weak, but he is very much alive and is very much Randy. The miracle of Randy's recovery may lie deep in a hyperbaric chamber somewhere or in the thoughtfulness of a doctor who thought fatty acids could help repair the brain. Perhaps it was his own desire to fight for his life or it could just be that his wife Anna never left his bedside, not once, in the entire time he was ill. So, as doctors, just like anybody else, we enjoy the good stories and we are happy from time to time to call them miracles.

Good luck Randy.
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 1:57 PM ET
  19 Comments
Randy is one tough individual to recover from such a tragic condition. His will power, the love from his wife, the rescue crew, the team of doctors, and a bit of help from above are all to credit for his miraculous recovery.
Posted By Anonymous JP, Las Cruces, NM : 2:27 PM ET
Miracles come in many forms. In this case, perhaps the miracle was that the doctors thought to try the fatty acids or the hyperbaric chamber. In any case, we are all rejoicing with that family today and are grateful for their doctors' skills, regardless of the source of those skills, and for the resiliency of the human mind and body!
Posted By Anonymous Ann, Ames, IA : 2:37 PM ET
Hi Sanjay,
Yes, Randy McCloy is a medical miracle and a spiritual miracle as well. I hope Randy and his family can live their lives to the fullest and be happy for the second chance..I know I wish him all the very best life can give..My prayers go out as well to all the other miners families, who did not have their loved one come home..Bless you all..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 3:07 PM ET
I remember watching CNN and not sleeping at all the night he was pulled out. It is so wonderful to see the story come full circle and watch him walk out on his own! I applaud the love and dedication of his wife. If only everyone was lucky enough to have someone like that in their lives this world would be a remarkable place. Thanks for staying with this story from the beginning. God bless Randy and his family.
Posted By Anonymous Victoria Pittsburgh, PA : 3:28 PM ET
I think this is a wonderful story ! I
couldn't be happier for him and his
family.I hope he continue's to improve.
God speed in your recovery Randy!
Posted By Anonymous Brenda,Waldorf,MD : 3:56 PM ET
Thank God for Randy's recovery. I hope the best for him and believe that he will be able to recover the life he had prior to the accident. My only fear is the political exploitation an event like this precipitates. The last thing we need is more government oversight in the private sector, trying to make things better. Industry does a much better job of policing itself than the government.
Posted By Anonymous JJ, Las Cruces, NM : 3:59 PM ET
This proves that the human spirit is an awsome thing.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Welch, Raleigh NC : 4:04 PM ET
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MIRACLE.
The use of the term miracle takes the credit away from the guy who was resiliant enough to survive despite the extreme conditions he was faced with. It takes away the credit from the people who worked hard and risked their own safety to rescue him from the mine. It takes away the credit from the team of dotors who worked night and day to keep him alive and help him recover. It takes away the credit from the medical technology that was used to save him and the people who were smart enough to use SCIENCE to develop this technology to save lives instead of hoping for intervention from some phantom ghost in the sky.

No, this isn't a miracle, it is human achievement.
Posted By Anonymous Brian Maull, Runnemede, NJ : 4:50 PM ET
I'm quite glad that he made it, and although his road to a full recovery may be a difficult one, I feel that the attention should be focused towards the mine itself. A tragedy such as this, allowed the public to view the standards in which our fellow Americans work, the hazards and dangers are all too real. And, yes, I am aware that the job is a dangerous to begin with, however, I feel that the greatest amount of effort must be applied to ensure an accident like this never happens again.
Posted By Anonymous Neil - New York City, NY : 5:15 PM ET
Watching tv and reading the news brought tears! I am thankful for Randy's recovery and wish him and his family the very best. Thank you Sanjay for a beautiful write up
Posted By Anonymous Bonnie, Bellevue WA : 5:30 PM ET
It is quite remarkable to read about such a dramatic recovery from a near death experience. I agree with Dr. Gupta that if you look hard enough you will find a reasonable explanation for Randy McCloy's survival. The previous comments thanking god seem presumptious to me. Did the other miners die because of god? Thanking god in this circumstance takes credit away from Randy's will to live and the incredible care of many doctors.
Posted By Anonymous Brad Ewing, Columbus, OH : 5:57 PM ET
Randy is truly a medical miracle!!!
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for years to treat carbon monoxide poisioning.....the sooner the treatment...the better the outcome..Perhaps hyperbaric units should be available at all mining sites!
Posted By Anonymous paul, pittsburgh, pa : 6:49 PM ET
Hi Sanjay!! First of all I love all of your work!! Randal McCoy will always be a miracle. Growing up in the hills of Southeastern Kentucky around the coal mines we believed in miracles. I never thought I would witness one but today seeing Randal come homes was my miracle. It also says that there is a God and he answered all of our prayers! My thoughts and prayers are still all of the families and friends affected by this disaster!!
Posted By Anonymous Jeanette Johnson, Hockessin, DE : 6:51 PM ET
This is such great news! When I saw that photo on the blog post, I couldn't hardly believe it was him! Good luck, Randy, I'm glad you're doing well!
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 6:58 PM ET
This is truly a sad and touching story. My heart goes out to this remarkable young man and I am so happy that he has a chance to be with his family and son. He wanted to work in the mines so that his wife could be home with their son and I truly respect him for this. What a human being and a fighter! God bless you Randy and your family. May you have a very prosperous, healthy and life full of abundant love.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle Morreale, San Diego, California : 7:29 PM ET
I am very pleased for Randy and it is certainly a remarkable recovery. But frankly I would prefer it if doctors didn't use the word 'miracle' at all. I suspect that in fact that there are very good scientific explanations for his recovery and that we needn't look to a supernatural cause for the explanation. I am tired of the way the media are constantly overusing this word. And after all wouldn't a real miracle have been if all 13 miners had survived instead of just one? Isn't it an insult to the other families to call Randy's recovery a miracle and doesn't it suggest that if a supernatural entity was involved it was rather a capricious one?
Posted By Anonymous Robert, Los Angeles, CA : 8:31 PM ET
It is wonderful to hear something positive in the news. Randy continue to recover--your spirit must be strong--the best

Gloria--Maryland
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 8:54 PM ET
In a time when news is generally bad, this story brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes I find it hard to believe in a higher power and then something like this happens where everyone works together and there is a true miracle. God bless Randy and his family and maybe he can bring some solace to those families of the miners that did not survive. Thank you to all who made me have hope for another day that there is good and all things are possible through his healing.
Posted By Anonymous shelley dove, ceylon, mn : 8:57 PM ET
To call Randy's recovery anything else but a miracle would be considered an understatment. Im sure the DHA and hyperbaric chamber played a significant role in is recovery however, the true reason why he is still here with us today is absolutely divine.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Raleigh, NC : 9:17 PM ET
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