A top neurosurgeon said stricken Michael Schumacher’s brain cells are ‘working together like a Formula One team’ in a bid to get him to wake up from his six week long coma.
Dr Munther Sabarini, neurosurgeon and founder of the Avicenna Hospitals in Berlin, Hamburg and Zurich, says the vital pyramidal neurons – control cells – ‘are working together, so to speak, like an F1 team. So if a driver shows weakness, then another driver takes over under the new situation. So it is with the brain cells. You can support brain function with a lot of resources so that the healing process is accelerated and cause as little damage as possible.
‘Typically high-energy bodily functions are shut down during a coma. Only after awakening can they be enabled again. The vital signs are observed and corrected. It is then up to the doctors to do a great deal; physiotherapy, mental care, treatment of new or old diseases.
‘Depending on the aid required the patient receives medication – usually called neuro vitamins – but the measures applied vary stronly from case to case. After awakening one needs a few months to a few years to learn to overcome physical changes. Young and healthy people like Michael Schumacher have better chances to recover from such a trauma.’
His medical team at the Grenoble University Hospital in France announced last week they are slowly reducing the anaesthetic that has kept Schumacher, 45, unconscious since his low-speed ski accident on December 29 when he smashed his head on to rocks.
This could take many more weeks. Anaesthetic gases which may have accumulated in his body’s fatty tissue must be removed extremely slowly.
So far, there have been no facial or bodily responses to his environment, according to medical sources. He receives food through a tube to his stomach, oxygen via a hose from a machine next to his bed as he still cannot breathe independently.
Three times daily his joints and muscles are massaged to prevent atrophy and bed sores.
The coma suppressed his swallowing reflex, pain perception and his respiratory drive.
He has to be acutely monitored around the clock during this wake-up phase to see if such things are returning naturally.
Experts say that perhaps the greatest risk of all facing Schumacher in his prone position is pneumonia. The lack of a competent swallowing mechanism can make saliva run into the lungs and trigger the potentially lethal respiratory infection.
Andreas Pingel, medical director of the Centre for Spine Surgery and Neuro-Traumatology at the BG Hospital in Frankfurt told Germany’s Focus Magazine; ‘About 30 to 50 percent of all patients who lie in a coma as long as Michael Schumacher has get it.’
His blood is also thinned to prevent thrombosis and he is regularly turned and even stood straight up at times to keep blood flowing. He lies on a special air-filled mattress to prevent pressure sores and his urinary tract is under constant vigliance because of the danger of waste bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing a potentially fatal infection.