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Michael Schumacher: Former Formula One doctor says fans must be prepared

Corinna and Michael Schumacher......wife speaks to unconscious husband daily.
Corinna and Michael Schumacher......wife speaks to unconscious husband daily.

Former Formula One Dr. Gary Hartstein wrote recently in his blog that fans of Michael Schumacher must prepare for "really bad news", according to an article in today's London Mirror newspaper. Hartstein further wrote, "As time goes on it becomes less and less likely that Michael will emerge to any significant extent."

The Mirror quoted Hartstein today as also speculating, "And whereas I worried more than a bit about what was going to happen when and if really bad news got announced, I've realised that perhaps the lack of status udpates has given us all a chance to move on a bit, to process what's happening, and to start to....detach."

Despite Hartstein's pessimistic recent comments, the Schumacher family remains strong in their support for Michael. Public relations agent Sabine Kehm has said of the family, "They are here every day. They are brave and they try to carry on with Michael."

She also told Germany's RTL Television, "The family will not allow themselves to be discouraged. They are incredibly strong."

A recent report by German publication Focus that doctors had stopped the "waking up" process was denied by Kehm.

While conflicting reports continue to swirl concerning Michael's condition he is entering his 85th day in a medically-induced coma. The seventime world champion was injured Dec. 29 when his skis struck a snow-covered rock which catapulted him 34 feet through the air. His helmet struck a second rock, causing it to split.

While he was conscious and spoke immediately following the accident, he was helicoptered from the French Alps to University Hospital of Grenoble, France for treatment. He underwent two surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain.

Devoted wife Corinna has been by his bedside every day. She speaks to him in the hopes he will recognize her voice and awaken. The two have been considered "the golden couple" of Formula One as they have enjoyed a storybook marriage. They met at a party and instantly appeared to hit it off while Michael was winning world championships for Benetton and then Ferarri.

Michael is the only Formula One driver ever to win seven world championships. Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio is second with five.

The extent of his fan base around the world is impossible to measure as millions have been following his progress. Although born in Germany, the tifosi of Italy adopted him as their own as he accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning five world championships for Ferrari from 2000 through 2004. Before that he won two world titles driving for Benetton.

Kehm has said last week that Michael is in the waking-up phase and that it will "take as long as it takes."

Hartstein further blogged about the recent report Michael has lost 25 % of his body weight, saying, "Happily, the consequences are not particularly dramatic, at least immediately."

He also said, "To be blunt, a patient in coma doesn't really NEED his or her muscles..with the exception of the diaphragm. The diaphragm, which like the heart is pretty much always active, resists atrophy rather better than other muscles, but it does atrophy."

Jean Todt, who worked with Michael at Ferrari, said, "I am expecting really big things from Michael in the future."

The current FIA boss's optimism is reflected in the attitudes of many of those closest to Michael including Brazilian driver Felipe Massa who visited him in the hospital and reported that his lips moved in response to something the Williams driver said. Massa was a teammate of Michael's at Ferrari.

Doctors have been reducing Michael's sedative dose as they attempt to bring him out of his coma.

One expert said that most artificial comas last three weeks. While Michael's is entering its 12th week, family and fans are refusing to give up hope.

The heart of a champion like Schumacher is something doctors don't know how to measure. Despite the fact doctors reportedly told the family "it will take a miracle", Schumacher's fans have seen him pull off enough miracles on circuits from Monte Carlo to Indianapolis to Rio de Janeiro to know nothing is impossible where Michael is concerned.

The hearts and minds of all the drivers who rev up their engines for this week's Malaysian Grand Prix will be on Michael as he continues to fight for his life. Several drivers had Michael's initials on their helmets in the first race of the season at Australia.

Hartstein in his blog wrote, "I always knew Michael was adored. I spent years at circuits drenched in red by the Ferrari caps, flags, and shirts, and all of that for Michael. I'm still staggered by the depth and persistence of his fans' love for him."

Hopefully, Steve Matchett and the other NBCSN commentators at this week's grand prix in Kuala Lumpur will announce a miracle for Michael.

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