Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of the Sago Mine explosion, can now make conversation and joke around, and his doctors are predicting a complete recovery in a year. He knows he is a miracle.
"I guess he's just heard us discussing about him being a miracle and one day he looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and said, 'I'm a miracle?'" said Anna McCloy, Randal's wife.
Randal, who spent more than 40 hours trapped underground after the Jan. 2 explosion, emerged from a coma on Jan. 26. The extent of the brain damage he suffered is not yet known, but he can make purposeful movements with the left side of his body. He can stand with assistance, and he is undergoing physical therapy so he can walk again.
"He has exceeded our expectations, and the recovery has progressed rapidly," said Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon and the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia School of Medicine. "It will probably take a year or so for complete recovery, but we're hoping he's out of the rehab facility fairly soon and able to go home with Anna and the children."
His doctors say they never expected Randal to progress so much in such a short period of time, and are truly surprised.
"He's had a major transformation," said Russell Biundo, medical director at Healthsouth Mountainview Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where McCloy is recovering. "A month ago, he wasn't able to articulate at all, not even able to follow you across the room or connect with you."
Now, Randal recognizes his children, 15-month-old Isabel and 4-year-old Randal, who climbs in his hospital bed and watches TV with him, Anna said.
"It's nice for them to be able to know that their daddy knows them now and can talk with them," she added.
When the miner first arrived at the rehab facility, "we were not able to see Randy, his personality, his character, his emotions," Biundo said.
Randal's wife says she is "getting very close" to having him back.
"You see a lot of his personality, which is the reason I married him," Anna said. "I was so afraid it wasn't coming back, but it's there."
Although Randal knows he was injured in a mine explosion, he doesn't know yet that he is the only person to survive from his 13-member team.
"We haven't got to that yet," Anna said. "He hasn't asked about that, and I'm not going to push it. We'll just wait for the time to come."