The waking-up process from an induced coma has begun for Michael Schumacher at a specialist clinic in Grenoble, France. The seven time Formula 1 World Champion has been in a coma for over a month after a ski accident in the French Alps.
The medically induced coma was necessary after two emergency operations were performed to reduce swelling to his brain. Schumacher, who had been skiing off-piste, hit a rock and was thrown through the air to hit a second rock head first with such force that his helmet split on impact.
The waking up process is being initiated by a drop in sedation levels. According to doctors it is a process that could take considerable time, perhaps weeks, each case varies and can depend on many factors.
According to Dr. Keith Black, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, trauma to the brain can be twofold. There is the initial injury sustained by the accident itself, then there can be a secondary injury from swelling of the brain if it is not addressed. The swelling can lead to an increase of pressure on the brain which can lead to damage to other parts of the brain.
Induced comas are used to control that swelling and minimize damage to the rest of the brain. In most cases the swelling will peak around the third day, though it can take up to a couple of weeks. In Schumacher’s case, he has been in the coma for just over a month and doctors now feel it is time to begin reducing his sedation.
The first 24 hours can be critical in the waking up process of a medically induced coma. With the reduced swelling in the brain it is hoped that as the sedatives wear off Schumacher will awaken of his own accord. If this doesn’t happen, or the brain begins to swell again during the awakening process, the doctors might have to put him back in a coma and begin the process at a later date.
The prognosis for Schumacher is not known and will not be known for some time as recoveries from brain injuries depend on numerous variables. A good recovery would see him responding to external stimuli and returning to a cognitive state. In a situation where there is extensive injury it is possible that he could remain comatose.
Throughout the ordeal support has been piling in for Michael, his family, and his doctors, from around the world. Flags have been raised, vigils held, bulletins posted, and Schumacher’s old factory team, Ferrari, sent him a message from pit lane in Jerez, Spain, where they’re holding winter testing. In a photo the Ferrari team posed with a pit board with the words “Forza Michael” in bright yellow letters. A sentiment shared by many.
The days to come will be telling for his recovery. It is hoped that his waking up process from the induced coma goes as smoothly as possible so Schumacher can return to his family.
By Scott Wilson