Lausanne, Switzerland - Formula One star Michael Schumacher is out of his coma after nearly six months.
He was transferred on Monday to a hospital nearer his home to continue his recovery.
Schumacher, 45, was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering a severe head injury in a skiing accident in the French Alps in December.
In a statement his manager Sabine Kehm said: “Michael has left, to continue his long phase of rehabilitation. He is not in a coma any more.
“His family would like to thank all his doctors, nurses and therapists. The family also wishes to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes.”
“We are sure it helped him.”
“For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye.”
Doctors at the CHU Grenoble hospital in south-east France kept the seven-times world champion in a coma to help reduce swelling in his brain.
Taking a patient out of an induced coma is a delicate process.
Doctors then need to decide if the patient is in a minimally conscious state, or a vegetative state, showing no sign of awareness. In a minimally conscious state, they can respond to some commands and stimuli, such as a voice.
On Monday Bild, Germany’s biggest selling newspaper, said Schumacher - who has lost a quarter of his body weight since the accident - was able to communicate. In April Kehm, said he was showing ‘moments of communication’.
LACK OF INFORMATION
But former Formula One doctor Gary Hartstein said he feared the worst, given the lack of information from Schumacher’s family.
He said he was “quite afraid (and virtually certain) we will never have any good news about Michael”.
In his blog on Monday Hartstein said: “I cannot but think that if Michael had emerged at all from the minimally conscious state that Sabine so accurately described in April, we’d be told that Michael is leaving for rehab, that he is having problems expressing himself and will work hard to get better.
“Or that he’s having to learn to walk, read, write, etc all over again. But no, we’re told what we already know, and pretty much told to not ever expect further updates.”
LONG-TERM SIDE EFFECTS
Dr Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University’s John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “If he’s been released from the hospital he was in, it means he’s able to support his own breathing and bodily functions.”
He said rehabilitation “suggests there’s been long-term side effects of his injury”.
Aziz went on: ‘With rehabilitation, they’ll try to train him to cope with the disabilities, to achieve as much life function as possible.”
Schumacher is being treated at the University Hospital of the Canton of Vaud in Lausanne, Switzerland, about 30km from his home on the shore of Lake Geneva where he lives with wife Corinna and teenage children Gina Marie and Mick.