Doctors continue process of awakening Sharon

Doctors treating Ariel Sharon were on Tuesday to continue the process of waking the critically ill Israeli leader from a coma a day after he responded positively to initial tests to assess the damage caused by a massive brain haemorrhage.

Medics on Monday began the process of trying to rouse the ailing premier, and were encouraged after he moved his right limbs in response to pain stimulus, indicating he had retained at least some brain function after last week’s massive stroke.

In an early-morning update, a hospital spokesperson confirmed there had been no change in Sharon’s condition overnight, and that he was still “critical but stable” a day after medics began reducing sedation levels in a bid to try to rouse him.

“There has been no change in the prime minister’s condition and he continues to be critical but stable,” spokesperson Ron Krumer told reporters outside Jerusalem’s Hadassa hospital in Ein Kerem.

“Today [Tuesday] the doctors will continue the treatment that they started yesterday,” he said.

Another medical update is due at 4pm local time, he added.

The medical team treating Sharon on Monday began reducing the level of sedatives that had been keeping him in a coma to help his body recover, and were encouraged when he responded positively

“We carried out pain stimulus tests which involve pressure,” hospital director Shlomo Mor-Yosef said on Monday afternoon. “In the stimulus, we noted that the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, slightly moved his right arm and right leg.

“It was a very clear reaction to pain ... These movements changed and became more and more significant the more we lowered the sedation,” he said.

Despite initial positive signs, experts warned it could take days to gauge whether the 77-year-old premier would recover his cognitive or linguistic powers.

After days of uncertainty, doctors have appeared more confident they can save his life but warned his condition will not allow him to absorb the stresses of leading the Jewish state.

Felix Umansky, the chief neurosurgeon treating Sharon, said it would take days for the damage to his brain to be assessed.

“It is still too early to speak about cognitive function,” he said.
“It will take a number of days.”

The prime minister has been in a critical condition since Wednesday night when he suffered his second stroke in less than three weeks, leaving Israelis glued to television and radio bulletins for hourly news of his health.

Asked what signs the team would be looking for over the next few days, Umansky said: “That the responses to pain will be more significant, that the movement of his limbs will be more significant, and later on, that he will open his eyes.”

Israelis and world leaders have already braced themselves for the end of the Sharon era, fearing his demise would spark new turmoil in a region struggling to find the path to peace after decades of conflict.

The Palestinians have also expressed fears about the impact of a vacuum in Israeli politics, but their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has said he does not expect a radical shift with the exit of Sharon.

With Sharon in intensive care, his stand-in, Ehud Olmert, has pledged business as usual, as public figures urge a time of national unity and an end to political bickering until the country rides out the Sharon crisis.—AFP

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