Jerez: Michael Schumacher has blinked during brain tests as he is slowly brought out of his month-long coma, according to reports in a leading French newspaper.
The seven-time Formula One world champion, 45, has spent the last month in the University of Grenoble Hospital fighting for his life after sustaining brain injuries following a skiing accident in the resort of Meribel.
Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm confirmed on Thursday morning that the former seven-time Formula One world champion was being gradually brought out of an induced coma for the first time since his skiing accident on December 29.
The paper has reported that the driver blinked during tests on his brain.
The newspaper wrote: “After gradually reducing the sedation of the patient, the team of head doctor Emmanuel Gay have been testing his neurological reflexes since Monday. During the early stages the patient blinked.”
Surgeons have performed two operations to remove blood clots around Schumacher’s brain. He has been kept asleep to reduce swelling.
Doctors in Grenoble have ruled out giving a prognosis for his condition in the coming days and months.
The process of reducing sedation can take days or even weeks, depending on the strength of medication used. Whether Schumacher can fully recover from his injuries, however, is doubtful.
He has stayed in a coma for a relatively long time, indicating severe swelling, probably relating to severe damage, said Peter Andrews, professor of intensive care at Edinburgh University, who is leading the world's largest trial of using hypothermia to reduce brain pressure.
In a statement, Sabine Kehm said: “The family of Michael Schumacher is again requesting for their privacy, and the medical secret, to be respected, and to not disturb the doctors treating Michael in their work.
“At the same time, the family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the sympathy they have received from around the world."
Wife Corinna, who is maintaining a constant bedside vigil, last week issued a heartfelt thank you to all those who continue to send in messages of support, insisting her husband “is a fighter (who) will not give up”.
Close friend Felipe Massa, who suffered his own serious head injury in an accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, admitted last week he was praying every day for Schumacher.
In this week’s first pre-season test in Jerez, the Mercedes car being driven by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is carrying the message on the side of the W05 ‘KeepFightingMichael’.
Hamilton said: “It’s tragic. We are hoping he is going to pull through and we see him sooner rather than later.”
Rosberg added: “We have the message on our car because as a team we want to show we are thinking about him, his family and friends, and hoping for the best every day.”
Ferrari — whom Schumacher had 72 of his 91 wins in the sport — said they were “waiting” for his return.
Sebastian Vettel, who has previously said he idolised Schumacher in his youth, since becoming friends, said he was praying for a “miracle” for his compatriot.
“He’s still in a coma and we still don’t know what shape he will be in when he wakes up, which is horrible, especially for his family and close friends, not knowing what is going to happen”, Vettel said.
“I’m still as shocked as everybody else, and I pray and hope the miracle will happen, he will come back and be the person he was before.”