GRENOBLE, France – Daniel Albrecht counts himself among the lucky. The Swiss Alpine racer left spectators gasping in horror when he lost control during a training run in January 2009, landing on his back and sliding down the icy slope.
Then came three weeks in a medically induced coma and months of struggling for a simple word or phrase.
Ultimately, while still in his 20s, the former world champion had to give up competing in the sport he loved.
But, viewing Michael Schumacher’s critical brain injuries through the prism of his own, Albrecht knows his own luck held “when I came back as a nearly normal guy.”
Doctors for the Formula One great say that his condition remains too fragile to think beyond his immediate survival.
Those who recover from severe brain trauma are in the minority, according to one member of the team treating Schumacher at Grenoble University Hospital after he fell Sunday while skiing and struck a rock, cracking his helmet.
Dr. Jean-Francois Payen, the hospital’s chief of intensive care, told BFM-TV that medical literature puts that recovery rate at 40-to-45 percent of patients.
“But, once again, these are statistics,” Payen said. “And me, I don’t work with statistics. I work with patients. So we’re going to work” on Schumacher.
Schumacher’s doctors said Tuesday that the seven-time F1 champion remained gravely ill, although his condition improved slightly. He underwent surgery for a second time to remove bleeding in the left side of his brain.
“I know what it is and how serious the problem is,” Albrecht said. “Now we know he has a brain injury so you never know what happens next. I think I was a little lucky when I came back as a nearly normal guy. But it needs a long, long time.”
The Swiss ski team doctor who worked with Albrecht said a key difference is that Schumacher’s case is complicated by the bleeding.
“(Dani) had no bleeding, it was a concussion. When you have bleeding, the question there is, ‘Is it possible to do (treat) it fast so that you don’t have too much damage?’ ” Dr. Hans Spring said.
Nearly five years ago, Albrecht was the 25-year-old rising star of an improving Swiss Alpine team. As reigning world champion in the super-combined, he was a potential medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in the event won by American Bode Miller.
In Austria, while training for the storied downhill race at Kitzbuehel, Austria, Albrecht flew 40 feet in the air off the final jump, landed on his back and was thrust forward on his face before sliding to a halt.