PUBLISHED: 09:53 GMT, 8 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:54 GMT, 8 March 2014
Doctors treating Michael Schumacher have told the Formula One legend's family that the chances of recovery are now so slim that only 'a miracle' can save him.
The 45-year-old seven-time world champion has been in an artificially induced coma for 10 weeks since badly injuring his brain during a low-speed ski accident in the French Alps on December 29. Most artificial comas last for a period of two to three weeks.
His management team, led by spokeswoman Sabine Kehm, insist that he remains in the 'wake up' phase of his treatment as doctors continue to decrease the powerful narcotics that have kept him unconscious.
Coma: Doctors have told the family of Michael Schumacher 'only a miracle can save him'
Official news about his condition is minimal: but sources close to the family say the prognosis for Schumacher could not be worse.
'He is in terrible shape but until the family issue a statement we cannot write about it,' said one senior German journalist. 'The family have, we are told, been informed that only a miracle can bring him back now.'
However, Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is claiming that Schumacher is no longer on a ventilator and is now breathing independently.
Focus magazine reported a fortnight ago that the wake-up phase had been stopped due to complications and that he was placed back in the coma. That was denied by his agent Sabine Kehm although experts say that such a super-fit individual as Schumacher would have expelled all the drugs from his body by now, and that if he was going to wake up, he would have done so already.
This week was a vital one for Schumacher - doctors were hoping for a sign that he was aware of his environment.
Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is claiming that the seven-time world champion is no longer on a ventilator and is now breathing independently
Finish line: Schumacher took the chequered flag 91 times during a glittering career - the last one coming at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai in October 2006
Listen up: Schumacher and Felipe Massa in the Ferrari pits ahead of the Italian Grand Prix in 2008
They look for a fluttering of eyelids or a movement of fingers that is more than a reflex nerve twitch.
'This has not happened,' said another source close to the family. 'On Sunday his wife Corinna spent her 45th birthday at his bedside with their children Gina Marie and Mick, his brother Ralf and his father Rolf Schumacher.
'They talked and talked and prayed for him to acknowledge their presence. But he remains comatose with tubes feeding him, supplying him with air, giving him medicine and removing waste from his body.
'The doctors have given it to them straight. There is little hope left that he will come out of this.
'Miracles happen, of course, and as a wealthy man he has the best care money can buy. But all the money in the world cannot fix what has happened to him.'
Three times daily Schumacher's joints and muscles are massaged to prevent atrophy and bed sores.
Hero: Schumacher, celebrating after the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix, was worshiped during his time at Ferrari
This week was a vital one for Schumacher (pictured here in 2012) - two months into his coma, doctors were hoping for a sign that he was aware of his environment
And he's off: Schumacher made his Formula One debut as a Jordan driver at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix
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. He has already had - and conquered - one lung infection.
His blood is also thinned to prevent thrombosis and he is regularly turned and even stood straight up at times to keep it flowing.
Hobby: Schumacher, pictured here in 2005, was injured in a skiing accident on December 29
Rescue mission: Schumacher was taken to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Grenoble after his accident in the French Alps on December 29
He lies on a special air-filled mattress to prevent pressure sores and his urinary tract is under constant vigilance because of the danger of waste bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing a potentially fatal infection.
Gary Hartstein, a former F1 doctor, wrote on Sunday: 'The majority of the patients that come out alive from a coma after this amount of time suffer severe disabilities.'
He and others say the supposed mouth movements that Schumacher's former team-mate Felipe Massa saw were probably nothing more than pure nerve reflexes that repeatedly occur in coma patients and not conscious movements.
The beginning: Schumacher's first victory was in 1992 at the Belgian Grand Prix
End of an era: Schumacher completed his final race at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012
Share what you think
The comments below have been moderated in advance.
Tocino, Hong Kong, 13 hours ago
We all need you to come back. Forza Schumi !
Mark, London, 14 hours ago
I really hope this is just misinformation. It would be such a tragedy to lose such an iconic sportsman in such an innocuous accident!
JB Blue, Niagara, Canada, 14 hours ago
Come on Michael keep on fighting!!
SG17, London, 14 hours ago
I said yesterday that I am sure he is getting better but it is kept in secret. My comment attracted lots of red arrows. Seems like people wish him bad. All this is speculations an we should ignore it to stop media making up these stories about him.
DavidMoyesRedArmy, Manchesterrrrrrrr, 15 hours ago
Love him or Hate. The guys a Legend! A true winner. Win at all cost! Even with Vettel on 4 world titles aready i think he'll pass 7! My thoughts are with his family!
bullzriddim, Chatham, United Kingdom, 15 hours ago
I sooo wish that miracle would surface in time. Get well hero!
Tommy Dumpling, Derbyshire, 15 hours ago
Again, why are you reporting hearsay and not facts? There's been no official news.
badgers_claw, TheWorld, United Kingdom, 16 hours ago
Such a shame
Joey ADN, London, United Kingdom, 17 hours ago
Damn...dear Lord, heal this man and perform a miracle in his life. The same miracle you performed on the woman with the issue of blood in the Bible, heal Michael. Please Lord. In jesus name. Amen...Please lets all pray for him.
Adrian, Atlanta, United States, 18 hours ago
Unless it's not coming from the doctors themselves then we don't know the real truth. Weaning off of the drugs takes a while in order to prevent further damage, so only time will tell on his recovery and i think we should wait until conclusions are made.
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