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Doctors predict long haul for Schumacher

Geneva/Berlin: The Swiss medical team now treating Michael Schumacher said on Tuesday that the Formula One champion could be in hospital for a “long haul”, as a source close to his family revealed that he is drifting in and out of consciousness and remains unable to speak.

Schumacher was transferred to University Hospital Lausanne on Monday to begin rehabilitation, almost six months after suffering a head injury while skiing in the French Alps.

His manager, Sabine Kehm, announced that after his long stay in intensive care at Grenoble Hospital, he was no longer in a coma. But despite some reports, the 45-year-old racing driver, who is said to have lost 44 pounds since his December 29 accident, still cannot walk or talk.

Experts have noted that he was said to be having moments of eye opening and consciousness in April, which by definition meant he had already emerged from his coma.

Darcy Christen, head of media at CHUV Lausanne, said Schumacher’s stay at the facility would likely be a lengthy one. “It won’t be days. It could be for the long-haul,” he said.

On Tuesday a source close to the family said that they were in a “more positive mood” and remained confident his condition would improve. “It was a big step mentally for the family to move from Grenoble Hospital,” the source said.

“The transfer doesn’t mean that his condition improved markedly in the last few weeks. But he no longer needed to be in intensive care and a programme of rehabilitation is now under way.

“He is still going in and out of consciousness but he is having more moments of consciousness more regularly than in April. He certainly can’t talk but there is some degree of communication.

“His doctors and family speak to him but he gets tired very quickly and needs a lot of rest. So this is kept to a minimum.”

Germany’s Bild newsaper reported that Schumacher is now able to respond to the sound of his wife Corinna’s voice. There was no sign of his family at University Hospital Lausanne on Tuesday.

But Kehm, looking pale and tired, was spotted talking to someone near the hospital entrance.

It is not known whether Schumacher is breathing spontaneously but it is believed that he will continue to be fed intravenously for some time to come.

The hospital’s service of neurology has a special unit dedicated to treating patients who have been comatose.

It is considered to be a global leader in neuroscience research. The department is directed by Professor Frackowiak, an internationally recognised pioneer of cerebral imaging and a former dean of London’s Institute of Neurology, one of the world’s most renowned neurology research centres.

The unit includes nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and neuropsychologists. The whole team works together from the start of the rehabilitation program

To restore a patient’s faculties, the unit uses a sensor-neural approach that stimulates all five senses. It was University Hospital Lausanne which found that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had likely been poisoned, after tests on his remains, belongings and burial soil revealed high levels of toxic polonium-210.

The hospital is well equipped to care for celebrity patients. Due to the large number of famous people living in the area, it has developed measures to ensure security and privacy in such cases.