Miner Randal McCloy Heads Home

Miner Randal McCloy Heads Home
Dale Sparks/AP

updated 03/30/2006 AT 11:30 AM EST

originally published 03/30/2006 AT 08:00 AM EST

Randal McCloy, the lone survivor of the Jan. 2 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia, is getting out of rehab and going home, McCloy and his wife Anna said on Thursday morning.

"I'd just like to thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers" McCloy said at a morning news conference.

In an interview with Matt Lauer that aired on the Today show Thursday, McCloy said his memory of the tragic events in the mine is "pretty clear," but added, "I really don't want to get into the details of it," for fear of upsetting family members of the 12 miners who didn't make it.

When he thinks of his fallen friends, he said he tries not to picture their last moments. "I try to leave out all the gory details and stuff like that because I don't like to look at them in that light and that way," he told the Associated Press. "I just like to picture them saved and in heaven, stuff like that."

He says when he does talk to the families he'll handle it delicately. "I am going to choose to be careful about what I say and how I word things for the families' sake. I just feel I should show them great respect."

As for why he survived and the others didn't, Lauer asked McCloy if it was a case of "there but for the grace of God ..." McCloy replied, "I'd say if you had to wrap it up in a nutshell, that would be it."

His doctors say McCloy's survival, and the progress he's made since being rescued, is miraculous. "It's basically almost like he was resurrected," Dr. Russell Biundo, medical director at HealthSouth Mountainview Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, said at the news conference Thursday.

After he was rescued from the mine on Jan. 4 after 41 hours underground, McCloy, 26 and the father of two children (Randal, 4, and Isabel, 16 months), was rushed to the hospital in critical condition due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

He says he does not remember his rescue – "I had so much carbon monoxide in my lungs" – but his wife, Anna, recalls seeing him in the ER for the first time, and telling him she knew he could not talk. But, she said, she told him, "'If you know who I am, just kiss me.' And he kissed me."

Lauer said McCloy had lost 30 pounds of muscle, has impaired vision and cannot recall basic things. "Mentally, he's getting there, but there's still a lot of confusion," his mother, Tammy Flint, told PEOPLE earlier this month. "It's like the right word is there, but it doesn't come out."

Intensive therapy will be required for a long time, but Randal's recovery is giving strength to the families of the other miners, Anna told Lauer. "Seeing him get better, that's their miracle right here."

As for his future, McCloy told the AP he's considering a vocational school, maybe electronics – but he won't be going back underground.

"No, I done learned my lesson," he said. "The hard way."

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