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Doctors: Olympic skier from Brazil fights for her life


SALT LAKE CITY – A Brazilian gymnast who was expected to compete in freestyle skiing at the Sochi Olympics is unable to move her arms or legs and can’t breathe on her own after she hit a tree while skiing in Utah this week, doctors said Thursday.

Lais Souza, 25, is fighting for her life and will definitely miss the Olympics, said Brazilian team doctor Antonio Marttos at a news conference.

She was injured Monday when she hit a tree while skiing recreationally in Park City, Utah, in an accident that doctors said could have happened to anybody. She was not injured while practicing her freestyle maneuvers.

Doctors aren’t declaring Souza paralyzed at this point, but they recognize that’s a possibility. She dislocated a vertebrae near the top of her spine, said Dr. Andrew Dailey, a neurosurgeon with University of Utah Health Care. She remains in critical condition, still using a breathing machine and unable to talk.

“She is fighting for her life,” said Marttos, a trauma surgeon at the University of Miami Health System.

Souza has no feeling in her arms or legs, said Dailey, who said it’s still too soon to know whether she’ll regain feeling.

“People can recover, but it simply takes time to know if that’s going to happen,” said Dailey, explaining that people sometimes get feeling back weeks, months or even years later.

Souza, who participated in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics as a gymnast, has been skiing for about six months, Marttos said.

Dr. Holly Ledyard, a member of the University of Utah hospital’s neuro critical care unit who is overseeing Souza’s treatment, said Souza’s relative inexperience with the sport of skiing didn’t play a role in the accident.

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