Doctors in ‘hour-by-hour’ fight to save life of Michael Schumacher
Former champion remains in medically-induced coma to assist his recovery
Michael Schumacher skis during a stay in the northern Italian resort of Madonna Di Campiglio in 2004. File photograph: Reuters
Doctors treating Michael Schumacher have said they were fighting “hour by hour” to save the former Formula One driver’s life after he cracked his head on a rock during an off-piste skiing accident in the French Alps.
Dr Jean-Francois Payen, chief anaesthesiologist at the Grenoble hospital treating Schumacher, yesterday said the next 48 hours would be crucial. A brain scan revealed internal bleeding and multiple lesions. “He is in a critical condition . . . His condition is deemed very serious,” said Payen. “For the moment, we cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher.”
The seven-times Formula One champion was airlifted to Grenoble on Sunday after falling heavily and hitting his head while skiing on an unmarked slope at the Meribel resort.The accident, initially played down by a resort spokesman, had a devastating impact on Schumacher, who was in a coma when he arrived at Grenoble.
“He is in a critical state of cerebral resuscitation,” said Payen. “We are working hour by hour.” Doctors said his ongoing treatment was aimed at oxygenating the brain and stopping the swelling. Schumacher, due to turn 45 on Friday, remained in a medically induced coma designed to help his recovery.
Schumacher’s wife Corinna, and their two children, were with him in hospital. So too was Gérard Saillant, a leading brain surgeon from Paris.
When asked about his chances of survival, Saillant replied: “Someone of 70 is less likely to survive this sort of accident than someone who is 45. And someone like Michael who is in top condition is more likely to survive than someone else.”
The doctors were clear that, if Schumacher had not been wearing a helmet, he would not have survived. “Someone who had had this kind of accident without a helmet would certainly not have made it this far,” said Payen.
According to one French media report, the blow to Schumacher’s head was so fierce that the helmet cracked. That could not be independently confirmed, but prosecutor Patrice Quincy, based in Albertville, the home of the 1992 Winter Olympics, said: “The victim lost his balance and banged his head extremely violently on small rocks concealed by the snow.”
Two ski patrollers arrived at the scene of the accident immediately, added Quincy, and the sportsman was airlifted to the nearest hospital at Moûtiers.
After the impact, Schumacher was conscious but “stunned”, said neurosurgeon Stephan Chabardes. “He didn’t respond to questions after the accident. He didn’t have a normal neurological reaction.” Guardian Service