More than two weeks after Michael Schumacher was placed into a medically induced coma, multiple German papers reported Thursday that doctors fear the racing champion “could be in a coma forever.”
Schumacher injured himself in a Dec. 29 skiing accident in the French Alps. He was taken to Grenoble University Hospital in France, where he was placed into the coma.
In the days since, the seven-time Formula One champion has undergone two brain surgeries and, despite some reports of small progress, doctors have been steadfast in their insistence that the status of his brain injuries remains critical. His 45th birthday was on Jan. 3, when fans held a vigil outside the hospital in tribute.
According to Huffington Post UK on Thursday, the German magazine Focus spoke with experts on Schumacher’s condition and reported that Schumacher “could be in a coma forever.” In addition, The Daily Mail reported doctors in France told the German newspaper Bild that Schumacher’s condition is so grave there are currently no plans to wake him.
It is that fact that presents the biggest risk, even if Schumacher does awaken, The Times (UK) reported. “If Schumacher survives, he will not be Schumacher,” Dr. Richard Greenwood, an acute brain injury specialist from University College London Hospital, told the paper. “He will be [a regular Joe] Bloggs. His rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs — and fulfills what Bloggs can do.”
The biggest concern for doctors when it comes to patients in forced comas is that oxygen to the brain is reduced in a coma, and the longer the patient remains in a comatose state, the more likely long-term effects such as brain and organ damage are sustained.
The Daily Mail quoted German professor and neurological expert Gereon Fink as saying, “If the injuries are so severe that it would harm the patient, he is kept longer in the medically induced coma. Depending on where bleeding has taken place can lead to unilateral paralysis, speech disorders or personality changes.”