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Miner's wife: 'He's strong enough to pull through'

McCloy still critical, but showing signs of improvement

CNN explores the dangers of mining in wake of the Sago disaster on "Hope and Heartbreak," a one-hour special anchored by Anderson Cooper, 11 p.m. ET.

Randy McCloy's wife, Anna, said Friday that she bought a Metallica album to play in her husband's room.



West Virginia

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- The wife of Randy McCloy Jr., the only survivor of a West Virginia mine explosion that killed 12, said Friday she had faith that her critically ill husband would recover from injuries he incurred while trapped in the mine for almost two days.

"If he was strong enough to pull through 41 hours in the mine, he's strong enough to pull through this," Anna McCloy told reporters.

In addition to the bevy of treatments being administered by doctors, Anna McCloy said she bought a Metallica compact disc and boom box to play in her husband's room.

The 25-year-old mother of two, who began dating Randy McCloy when she was 13, described her husband as a heavy metal buff who also enjoys bow hunting, fishing, and working on cars and electronics.

He also was a devoted husband and father who worked at the mines so she could stay home with the kids. Every morning, she said, the two met at the front door before he went to work and Randy would say, "God loves you, and he loves me, too."

Anna McCloy said she had not been able to spend much time with her husband Friday because he was undergoing so many tests -- tests doctors say indicate the miner is slowly improving in many areas.

However, many concerns remain, namely the damage to his brain and left lung, a doctor said Friday.

Doctors are hoping a specialized oxygen treatment can help the 26-year-old overcome the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and oxygen deprivation that have left his brain and other vital organs damaged.

McCloy has received two treatments in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is in critical but stable condition, Dr. Richard Shannon said Friday. He will receive a third treatment Friday evening, he said.

McCloy also is in a medically induced coma to let his brain rest. Shannon, chairman of Allegheny's Department of Medicine, said Friday afternoon that there were no immediate plans to wake him. (Watch Shannon talk about McCloy getting better -- 3:02)

"We need to buy a good day of stability here," Shannon said.

The biggest concern for doctors Friday was the fluid that has been accumulating in McCloy's left lung, which collapsed while he was trapped in the mine, Shannon said. Doctors in West Virginia, where he was initially treated, later inflated it.

Shannon offered an explanation for how the lung became so severely damaged: In the hour or so before he was rescued from the mine, McCloy lost his reflexes and was unable to cough, sneeze or control his airway, allowing dangerous gases and dust to gather in his lungs.

Because he was lying on his left side, that lung incurred the most damage, Shannon said, adding that doctors are partially to blame for the fluid accumulation in the lung.

To treat the dehydration McCloy suffered while in the mine, doctors gave him an enormous amount of intravenous fluids, some of which accumulated in the damaged lung, Shannon said.

In an attempt to remove some of that fluid, doctors have administered a second dialysis treatment in three days. The first was to treat high levels of potassium, which is no longer an issue, Shannon said.

On the positive side, it appears doctors have resolved the problem of McCloy's blood being too thin, and blood tests indicate that the damage to his muscles may have peaked, meaning the damaging proteins likely have been removed, the doctor said.

McCloy also appears to have regained "very normal cardiac function," which is a milestone on the road to recovery, Shannon said.

Neurologist Dr. James Valeriano said earlier Friday that scans show evidence of "brain injury from carbon monoxide," but it is not clear if the injury is reversible.

There are small, "pinpoint" brain hemorrhages, which are not as worrying as the "white matter injury," in which the "tracks of the brain" lose a coating material, he said.

"If he was 80 years old or something like that, you'd say, 'Well, you know, this really looks very bad,' " Valeriano said. "But it's his youth, really, that is the big factor, that gives him the most hope."

Shannon added Friday afternoon that a second brain scan indicated that the tiny hemorrhages in the back of his brain and lesions in the white matter have not enlarged and appear "clinically stable."

However, doctors are still concerned about the brain injuries because "we don't know yet what the impact of those lesions are," Shannon said.

McCloy is still suffering from six or seven life-threatening issues, Shannon said, but "a lot of things are heading in the right direction."

He was transferred Thursday evening from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Allegheny, which is the closest hospital with a hyperbaric chamber that can accommodate a patient with a breathing tube. The trip was made only after doctors considered him stable enough to make the 75-mile ambulance trip. (Watch what doctors are doing to save him -- 1:59)

The oxygen treatment is considered only a part of the overall "chronic treatment" McCloy is receiving for his organ failures, and the effects of the treatment aren't expected to be seen "for weeks or months," Dr. Antonio Zikos said.

The oxygen chamber treatment is designed to remove any remaining carbon monoxide that may have attached to molecules inside brain cells, Shannon said.

Though the treatment could prevent further damage to the brain, there is no evidence the treatment could reverse any damage that already has occurred, he noted.

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