Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher is reportedly blinking and responding to instructions as he is gradually woken from his coma but his manager has warned the process may be slow.
French newspaper l’Equipe reported “very reliable sources” as saying the seven-time world champion has blinked during brain tests and was responding “positively” to neurological tests.
Sky News also reported that Schumacher was “responding to instructions” from doctors.
His manager Sabine Kehm said in a statement that “Michael’s sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking up process which may take a long time.”
One reason for reducing the sedation is to see if the swelling has gone down in the patient’s brain and to assess what level of functions has been retained.
Ms Kehm said she was only providing an update now on Schumacher’s condition to clarify media leaks, and that no further details would be provided. l’Equipe newspaper first reported on Wednesday that doctors had started waking Schumacher and that he was responding positively to treatment.
“I am stressing again that any statement regarding Michael’s health not coming from the doctors treating him or from his management must be considered as speculation,” a statement from Ms Kehm said.
“I repeat that we will not comment [on] any speculations.”
“Michael’s condition is still considered as stable,” she told French publication Le Dauphine Libere.
“I also repeat that Michael’s family is very happy and confident with the work of the team of doctors treating Michael, and they trust them completely.”
Schumacher has been in an artificial coma since his skiing accident on December 29.
It is the first positive report since his accident, following some publications suggesting he may remain in a “persistent vegetative state” for the rest of his life, or that he may never even come out of the coma.
The 45-year-old has been receiving round-the-clock care in Grenoble Hospital since he hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in Meribel, in the French Alps.
His wife Corinna and his two children Gina Marie, 16, and Mick, 14, have remained at his bedside.
Several F1 teams have shown their continuing support for Schumacher as testing for the 2014 season gets underway in Jerez, Spain.
Reigning world champion and good friend Sebastian Vettel told the media on the opening day of the test that he is praying for a “miracle”.
“It’s horrible, especially for his family and close friends, not knowing what is going to happen,” he said.
“I think I am still as shocked as everyone else and I pray and hope he will just come back and the miracle will happen and he will be the person he has always been before.”
Ferrari, for whom Schumacher won five consecutive world championships, gathered for a team photo holding a pit board that read #ForzaMichael, their sole F14T racecar also bearing the same hashtag.
Further down the pit lane, Mercedes, the manufacturer whom Schumacher has been linked with on and off since 1990, are running a similar message of support on their cars this season. [NL]