Legendary racecar driver Michael Schumacher who is still in a medically-induced coma blinked, according to a recent article in L'Equipe, a major French sports newspaper. Rumors of his death have been followed by denials from the University Hospital of Grenoble.
The conflicting reports have placed Schumacher's millions of fans circling the globe on an emotional roller coaster. Doctors are reportedly reducing the level of anaesthesia they are pumping into him in an effort to bring the seven-time world champion back to consciousness.
The French newspaper reported that Schumacher blinked in response to a medical test while "responding to instructions." The paper further quoted doctors as saying he is slowly being brought out of a month-long coma since his skiing accident in the Alps Dec. 29.
Sabine Kehm, his agent, said, "Michael's sedation is being reduced in order to allow the waking up process to begin, which may take a long time."
Jeremie Arbona, deputy editor for L'Equipe, said he was "l00 per cent sure" that his newspaper's article was correct. His widely-read newspaper reported as follows: "After gradually reducing the sedation of the patient, the team of Professor Emmanuel Gay (who is overseeing Schumacher's treatment) has been doing neurological tests since Monday. During this first stage, the patient blinked."
Surgeons have performed two operations to relieve pressure on his brain and remove blood clots. Professor Jean-Luc Truelle, a former head of the neurology department at Foch Hospital in Suresnes, said that once a patient in Schumacher's position opened his eyes there would be a re-establishment of communications "which we verify through simple commands such as 'open your eyes, shut your eyes, squeeze your hand."
Schumacher has been in intensive care in Grenoble University Hospital since being flown there by helicopter following his Dec. 29 accident at the Meribel resort in the Alps. He was conscious and reportedly mumbled some words immediately following the accident.
Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet while skiing with his son and a group of friends. However, the impact of the collision caused his helmet to split open.
His illustrious Formula One career is unparalleled causing many to label him the greatest racecar driver ever. He is the only driver to win seven world championships on circuits from Monte Carlo to Indianapolis. He won two of his championships with Benetton in 1994 and 1995. The peak of his career probably occurred from 2000 until 2004 with Ferrari when he claimed five consecutive world championships.
The German daily newspaper Bild reported Schumacher has contacted a lung infection on Wednesday, although Miss Kehm's statement Thursday made no reference to that. Bild quoted no sources in its story about the alleged lung infection.
After University Hospital sources denied rumors earlier this week that Schumacher had died, new rumors began anew that he was battling pneumonia following the widely-quoted article in Bild. Although Thursday's press release by the 45-year old Kehm did not deny the pneumonia story, Kehm did include in her most recent statement that "any decisive new information" on Schumacher's condition would be relayed to the news media.
Doctor have announced they began the lengthy process of waking him in a Jan. 30 statement. Schumacher is the only Grand Prix driver to win 91 races during his career.
Several sources have said it is impossible to guess at this stage how long a recovery could take.
Michael's 45-year old wife Corinne remains at his bedside daily talking to him in the hopes her voice will help him return to consciousness. Schumacher, also 45, never suffered an injury this serious during his racing career in which he did once suffer a fractured leg while driving for Ferrari.
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