Formula One legend Michael Schumacher remained “stable” on Wednesday as he entered the new year in hospital with severe brain injuries sustained while skiing in the French Alps.
The German racing great remained in an induced coma and a critical condition, with his wife Corinna, 16-year-old daughter Gina-Maria and 14-year-old son Mick at his bedside in the French Alpine city of Grenoble.
The seven-times world champion's fight for survival after he fell and slammed his head on a rock on Sunday morninghas shocked legions of fans used to seeing him cheat death on the racing tracks.
Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm told media massed outside the University Hospital Centre in Grenoble on Wednesday: "At the moment, he is stable,” in a brief update before heading back inside.
Initially described as serious but not life-threatening after the accident in the upmarket resort of Meribel, Schumacher's condition rapidly deteriorated and by Sunday evening, doctors said he was critical and had undergone an emergency operation.
On Tuesday, they said a slight improvement in his condition had allowed them to perform a second, nearly two-hour long, procedure to remove bleeding in the brain, but warned he was “not out of danger” yet.
Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit at the hospital, SAID: “We cannot speculate on the future.”
“We cannot say he is out of danger but we have gained some time.”
Doctors have so far ruled out any transfer from the hospital, which they say would be “dangerous”.
But they have pointed out that Schumacher, who will be 45 tomorrow (Friday), has age and physical fitness on his side.
He has been put in a medically induced coma to spur recovery, and his temperature has been reduced to about 35 degrees to reduce swelling.
Schumacher's accident has prompted an outpouring of sympathy from racing stars and fans alike.
Former Formula One champion Niki Lauda, who himself suffered severe injuries in a 1976 racing crash, has also come out in support of the man known fondly as “Schumi”.
“I think there is someone up there who is trying to help him in this situation. At the time, I could help myself. Michael, though, cannot do anything for the moment,” he said.
Schumacher was skiing in a small, off-piste section of Meribel located in between two slopes, full of half-buried rocks, when the accident happened.
HELMET SAVED SCHUMI’S LIFE
Kehm told journalists on Tuesday that Schumacher was skiing “with a small group of friends” as well as his son.
She said he was not skiing at high speed when the accident happened.
“He seems to have hit a rock as he took a turn. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances.”
A source close to a probe into the incident said his helmet, which medics say saved his life, had been smashed “in two” by the impact.
Media from around the world are camped out on the car park outside the hospital and several people have tried to sneak through the hospital and approach the former racer.
Kehm said: “There apparently was a person dressed up as a priest, who tried to get near Michael. I am asking everybody to let the doctors work and leave the family to spend peaceful time with Michael.”
Asked whether the priest was a journalist, she said: “It's what I was told; we have clearly noted that people are trying to get beyond the press room here in the clinic. It's revolting, in my opinion.”
On Wednesday, the hospital was forced to ask the press to move vehicles parked near the emergency room. - AFP