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Mine survivor progressing, learning to speak again

The survivor of the Sago Mine disaster is slowly learning to speak again, answering questions and learning to articulate words at a rehabilitation hospital, a family spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Randal L. McCloy Jr., 26, sometimes responds with a single word, but also uses phrases to answer relatives and therapists, said Aly Goodwin Gregg, a spokeswoman for McCloy's family. Some of his communication is clear, but much is still difficult to understand.

"His family is ecstatic with what's coming now," Gregg said. "It's wonderful to say, "Do you want more chicken fingers?' and for him to be able to say no."

Doctors are still gauging the extent of brain damage McCloy suffered from severe oxygen deprivation, she said.

McCloy's wife elicits the best responses from her husband, Gregg said. McCloy seldom initiates the talking.

McCloy was one of 13 miners who were trapped in the mine Jan. 2 after an explosion. The men were exposed to deadly carbon monoxide for more than 41 hours before searchers found them.

By then, all but McCloy had died. He was carried out of the mine with kidney, lung, liver and heart damage on Jan. 4 and remained in a coma for weeks before being transferred to HealthSouth Mountainview Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Morgantown.

The cause of the mine blast remains under investigation.

Gregg said McCloy's alertness and physical strength are also improving through daily therapy. He eats with some assistance but has a feeding tube to supplement his nutritional needs. That tube could be removed within the next few weeks.

McCloy is making movements with his left arm and left side, but his right side is slower to regain strength, Gregg said.

"You can see him frustrated when he can't do it," she said. "The doctors are really pleased with his focus and concentration."

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