Even as former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher battles with life since his skiing accident in December 2013, former F1 chief doctor Dr Gary Hartstein has some very bad news for his fans. While doctors work overtime to wake up Schumacher from coma, Hartstein has warned that his fans should be 'ready for the worst'
According to a report on the Independent, Hartstein wrote on his personal blog that, the longer the process of revival takes, it becomes less and less likely that Michael will recover.
"The longer one remains in a vegetative state, the less the likelihood of emerging, and the higher the chances of severe ramifications if the patient does in fact emerge," he wrote. (Key events since Schumacher's ski accident)
Hartstein went on to write, "I spent years at circuits drenched in red by the Ferrari caps, flags, and shirts, and all of that for Michael. I'm still staggered by the depth and persistence of his fans' love for him. And whereas I worried more than a bit about what was going to happen when and if really bad news got announced, I've realized that perhaps the lack of status updates has given us all a chance to move on a bit, to process what's happening, and to start to... detach."
According to earlier reports, Schumacher has lost 20-25 percent of his body weight. Talking about that phenomenon, Dr Hartstein wrote that it is "entirely possible and, in fact, probable" that Schumacher had lost a significant amount of weight. "Happily, the consequences are not particularly dramatic, at least immediately," he added. (Only a miracle can save Schumi)
"To be blunt, a patient in coma doesn't really need his or her muscles . . . with the exception of the diaphragm. The diaphragm, which like the heart is pretty much always active, resists atrophy rather better than other muscles, but it does atrophy.
"And having a machine doing the breathing for you is one of the best ways to see how disuse atrophy affects the diaphragm too. Unfortunately, and assuming (as I have until now) that Michael is being ventilated by a respirator, there is probably some degree of diaphragmatic atrophy at this point."
Hartstein also explained the consequences of being in coma for a long period. He wrote, "Patients who are in a persistent/permanent vegetative state have lifespans that are measured in months to a few years. This depends on baseline function (extraordinary in the case of Michael, of course), the quality of nursing care, and other imponderables. They usually die of respiratory or urinary infections. Longer survivals have been described, but are exceptional."
Schumacher suffered severe brain injuries after hitting his head on a rock in a skiing accident in the French resort of Meribel in December 2013. There is still a shimmer of hope that the Formula One driver, who turned 45 in coma, will make a miraculous recovery as his family and agent Sabine Kehm continue to wait patiently by his bedside. Fans too will hope that Schumacher will turn yet another corner successfully.
Story first published on: Wednesday, 26 March 2014 22:12 IST