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Michael Schumacher is said to be ‘responding to instructions’ as doctors gradually bring him out of his coma.
The seven-time Formula 1 world champion is also reported to have blinked during brain tests.
He has undergone a number of neurological exams since Monday and has responded “positively”, according to L’Equipe newspaper which cited “very reliable sources.”
Schumacher, 45, has been in an induced coma since suffering a traumatic head injury in a near-fatal skiing accident on December 29 in the French resort of Meribel.
It was revealed on Wednesday that his doctors had started to bring him out of the coma by gradually reducing the dose of sedatives.
And yesterday L’Equipe reported that Schumacher had blinked during the ‘first stage’ of brain tests. The newspaper’s deputy editor Jeremie Arbona said he was “100 percent sure” the story was accurate.
Sky News then quoted sources saying Schumacher was “responding to instructions.” It cannot be confirmed whether the information from the two reports is linked and whether Schumacher did indeed blink on command.
But Professor Jean-Luc Truelle, a French neurologist, said that once the patient opens his eyes there is a “re-establishment of some kind of communication, which we verify through simple commands,” such as “open your eyes, shut your eyes, squeeze your hand.”
“Schumacher appears to show this type of re-awakening,” according to L’Equipe. The newspaper said it was “undoubtedly the best news” since his accident.
Surgeons at Grenoble University Hospital have already had to perform two operations on Schumacher to relieve pressure on his brain and remove blood clots.
According to Professor Truelle, the two months following reawakening are a period of confusion in which the patient is in a state of “lethargy.” He said recovery can take “several years in the case of serious head injuries.”
It is possible for someone to spend several weeks in an induced coma and make a full recovery.
But Professor Gary Hartstein, Formula 1’s chief medic between 2005 and 2012, said: “It is extremely unlikely, and I’d honestly say virtually impossible, that the Michael we knew prior to this fall will ever be back.”