Inside Line: Schumi three years on

Of course – like most F1 fans – I thought of Michael Schumacher on the third anniversary of his life altering skiing accident on that fateful day – 29 December 2013 – saddened as always by the horrible turn life took for Formula 1’s most celebrated and decorated race driver – a true legend of the sport.

I admit I had nothing planned in terms of a story or report,  until this arrived in my inbox:

Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2016 20:54
Just a reminder to whom it may concern : ” 3 YEARS AGO TODAY MICHAEL
Happy new year GUYZ!

Clearly that was a call to write something about Schumi, so here goes:

Apart from his family and very close friends, very little is known about Michael’s current condition. Much of what is written is speculation and at times well off the mark as Die Bunte found out when they were sued by the Schumacher family for claiming in a report that seven times world champion could walk a few steps.

This inevitably triggered the first piece of meaningful information about the state of the champion when attorney Felix Damm told CNN during proceedings for a lawsuit against the magazine, “I told the court on Friday that the alleged claim that Michael Schumacher can walk again is false and simply not true.”

“Michael cannot even stand with the help of his special therapists. I cannot make any other comments about Michael’s health situation,” added Damm.

Die Bunte claimed in that report, in December 2015, that Schumacher was able to take steps and raise an arm with the help of therapists. After the story was published, Sabine Kehm, Schumacher’s agent, issued a rebuttal that the driver was unable to move.

“Speculation is irresponsible, because given the seriousness of his injuries, his privacy is very important. Unfortunately, [Die Bunte] also gave false hopes to many involved people,” said Kehm.

We also know that Schumacher was in a medically induced coma at Grenoble Hospital until March 2014 and by April was showing “moments of consciousness” as he was gradually withdrawn from the medically induced coma, but there were complications.

Nevertheless on 16 June 2014, Schumacher had regained consciousness and left Grenoble Hospital for further rehabilitation at the University Hospital (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. On 9 September 2014, Schumacher left CHUV and returned to his home for further rehabilitation, where he has remained since.

At the family mansion, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Schumacher is cared for around-the-clock by a team of experts and nurses at a cost estimated to be around $500,000 per month.

Recently it emerged that a photographer was trying to peddle a current photo of Schumacher for $1-million to well heeled media outlets. Police are investigating this invasion of privacy.

But do we really need photos to see what Schumi looks like today? I personally don’t, but grudgingly acknowledge that there are those with a morbid fascination for the macabre who might want to see such a thing.

All I need is my imagination to make me shudder at the the thought, however I did pry an expert in the medical field and he painted me a pretty grim picture.

So if you are squeamish stop reading.

During the period of his medically induced coma, Michael would have lost at least 20-30 kilograms reducing him to a sliver of the man he once was. His muscle mass will have deteriorated to the point that any movement would be a painstaking chore.

Compounding matters is the fact that Schumacher’s ‘waking up’ procedure was problematic and at least once he was returned to an induced coma. This would normally play havoc with a patient’s recovery process.

But since his return home in September 2014, his condition will have improved under the constant care he is receiving. He may not be as frail as he was a year ago but he would probably weigh in at around 50 to 55kg. His muscle mass will not have improved much as he is confined to a wheelchair which restricts his capacity for muscle building exercise.

The presumption is that Michael does not speak or communicate in any meaningful way, thus he is unable to express himself or his emotions.

Therefore we can conclude that our Formula 1 legend still lives, and this is thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and a great deal of money. As my doctor source told me in no uncertain terms: “Anyone else would probably be dead by now as the average man does not have the kind of money that has been spent to keep Schumacher alive.”

And alive he is, but don’t expect him to be out and about ever again. As former F1 Doctor Gary Hartstein stated years ago: “I’m quite afraid (and virtually certain) we will never have any good news about Michael.”

So if you are a true fan of his forget what he looks like now and instead marvel at the great images – and there are many all over the internet – of  the man at his very best.

Best to remember him as he was.

While I am at it I might as get one of those little stones out of my shoe…

The Schumacher family, aided by their long time associate Sabine Kehm, have protected Michael’s privacy with militant tenacity and top secrecy. They claim that his condition is not for the public domain, and I for one agree with the concept wholeheartedly.

However I find their setting up of social media accounts in the name of Michael Schumacher and Keep Fighting totally tasteless and highly provocative.

They are wanting the best of both worlds: first keeping Schumi’s condition totally under wraps, yet at the same time they use the the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the legend very much alive.

It does not make sense to me that these elements are compatible in terms of their unrelenting desire for privacy.

By keeping Schumi’s legacy current – as with the totally bizarre Christmas Tweet showing Michael on snow being pulled by dogs with red noses – the family and their advisers provoke paparazzi to strengthen their resolve to capture Michael in his current state.

By keeping Schumi on the radar through social media is doing a disservice to his legacy and image, tempting fate and all I can do is shake my head in dismay as I am astounded at the crassness of such initiatives, but maybe its because I am old fashioned….

Inside Line Opinion by Paul Velasco