June 16, 2014 3:41 pm

What’s next for Schumacher now that he’s out of coma?


WATCH ABOVE: Formula One great Michael Schumacher is no longer in a coma and has left a French hospital where he had been receiving treatment since a skiing accident in December, his manager said Monday.

TORONTO – Six months after a tragic ski accident, seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher is out of a French hospital after waking up from his coma.

He’s now in the hands of doctors in Switzerland who are working on his recovery.

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On Dec. 29, the 45-year-old German driver was hospitalized with severe head injuries after he crashed into rocks on the slope while skiing with his son in the French Alps.

Doctors put Schumacher in a medically induced coma to help him rest his brain and decrease swelling. They also operated to remove blood clots.

READ MORE: ‘Waking up’ process for Schumacher, responsiveness post-coma unknown 

Dr. Mark Bayley, medical director of the brain and spinal cord rehab program at Toronto Rehab Institute, suggests that while waking up is a good sign, Schumacher has a long road ahead of him.

Unlike how television and movies portray comas, patients don’t wake up with much of their bearings.

“The sad reality is for most people with a severe brain is they do not wake up like they do on TV. They have a prolonged recovery process which takes a lot of effort and time,” Bayley said.

It could be a lifelong process. Some patients need to learn how to swallow, speak, walk and take on basic everyday skills. Keep in mind, Schumacher hasn’t used his body in months, leading to deconditioning and balance issues. It’d be an impressive feat if Schumacher learns to drive a car on his own.

“It’s highly unlikely he would be the same as he was before,” he said.

READ MORE: Michael Schumacher no longer in coma, released from hospital, manager says

Conventionally, patients stay in a coma for about seven days. If patients are unconscious for a longer period of time, they could transition into a vegetative state. Schumacher’s half-year-long rest means his injury is extremely severe.

By January, about a month in, doctors began the ‘waking up’ process for the athlete. That likely meant that they thought the swelling was easing up and it was time to assess his brain function. Schumacher probably made some movement – in the body, a reaction in the eyes, a response to his surroundings – that indicated to doctors that it was time to check in.

“Waking up is always a good sign. It’s his brain starting to recover, but the duration of time that he’s been in a coma is unfortunately a bad prognostic sign,” Bayley said.

Schumacher is now at Lausanne University Hospital, near his family’s Swiss home. Hospital spokesman Darcy Christen confirmed the 45-year-old German was admitted but stressed that the facility wants “to ensure that he and his family fully enjoy privacy and medical confidentiality.”

Over recent months, little information has been released on Schumacher’s condition. Monday’s announcement was the first substantial update since it was said in early April that Schumacher “shows moments of consciousness and awakening.”

READ MORE: New research raises ethical questions over helping those in ‘vegetative state’

The family “would like to explicitly thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months,” his manager Sabine Kehm’s latest statement said.

“The family also wishes to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes. … We are sure it helped him,” it added. “For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye,” it said.

– With files from the Associated Press


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