PM to be gradually awakened Monday morning

Sunday tests reveal intracranial pressure, vital signs are within normal range, temperature normal.

sharon prayer 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
sharon prayer 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's doctors on Sunday completed a new brain scan of the Israeli leader, Hadassah Hospital officials said. The results showed slight improvement in Sharon's condition, as he remained in stable yet critical condition. Doctors said they would begin to pull Sharon out of an induced coma on Monday morning, assuming that no negative changes were recorded until then. The tests on Sunday showed no increase in intracranial pressure, and the prime minister's other vital signs were within the normal range as well. Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) Director-General Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef emphasized on Sunday afternoon that Sharon had no fever. Earlier, the hospital said Sharon's condition had not changed overnight, and that he remained in critical but stable condition. The chances that Sharon will survive his massive stroke are "very high. He is a very strong man, and he is getting the best care," Dr. Jose Cohen, the neurosurgeon who has performed three operations on Sharon, said on Saturday. Cohen warned, however, that the prime minister remained in serious condition, and noted: "He will not continue to be prime minister, but maybe he will be able to understand and to speak." After three major operations within three days to halt repeated hemorrhaging and bring down intracranial pressure, Sharon was still fighting for his life on Saturday night, according to Mor-Yosef. He said in a bulletin to reporters that the accumulation of excess fluid in Sharon's brain tissue had been reduced after five hours of surgery on Friday, that the bleeding had been halted and that his blood pressure and other vital signs were normal. Mor-Yosef reiterated that while the latest CT scan showed that although the left side of Sharon's brain - his dominant hemisphere because he is right-handed - appeared not to be damaged by his hemorrhagic stroke on Wednesday night, there was no way to know how much damage had been caused to the right side. He showed some optimism by noting a "small improvement in the radiological picture" since Friday. "I can't yet say that the prime minister is out of danger, but there are slight signs of an improvement. The field of neurosurgery works at a slower pace than trauma or other disciplines that journalists deal with," said Mor-Yosef, asking for patience. "We are fighting to save his life." Hinting at criticism among some doctors that Hadassah's anticoagulant treatment for his initial mild ischemic stroke on December 18 might have triggered the hemorrhagic stroke, Mor-Yosef said he had received calls of support from senior physicians at Sheba, Ichilov, Soroka, Poriya, Barzilai, Bikur Holim and Shaare Zedek medical centers and Dr. Yoram Blachar, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, for his staff's efforts to save the prime minister, who remains continuously attached to a respirator and in an induced coma in his bed on the seventh-floor neurosurgery intensive care unit. Asked how he felt with the prime minister's life in his hands, the 39-year-old, Argentinian-born Cohen - who moved to Israel only four years ago - told reporters he had never met Sharon before he arrived at the Ein Kerem hospital. "If you give everything as a surgeon and realize that everything depends on you, you feel responsible. I have seen him respirated in an induced coma, but he is still the prime minister. He is a true fighter. I admire him more every day." As for how much of his cognitive and motor abilities will remain if Sharon survives, Cohen said it is impossible to predict, as each patient is different and the prognosis depends on what specific parts of the brain have been harmed and how much function can be recovered. Although HMO has formally barred interviews by the press with Cohen and with Prof. Felix Umansky, the Argentinian-born head of the neurosurgery department, they did answer questions from a couple of Spanish-speaking foreign correspondents. Cohen told Hanna Beres of the BBC's Spanish program on Saturday that "not all is lost" and that the prime minister "has all the chances to survive" even though he was in serious condition and in danger. Asked what his chances of normal functioning were, Cohen told Beres that it was impossible to know what permanent damage was done, but said Sharon would not able to continue as prime minister, though he might prove capable of understanding and speaking. The fact that the damage was caused to his right hemisphere and not his left - the seat of speech and memory in a right-handed person - was encouraging, Cohen said. Hadassah neurosurgery staffers told The Jerusalem Post that they have had some patients in their department, even elderly ones, who suffered hemorrhagic strokes and underwent similar operations and, after long rehabilitation, were able to function well despite limitations. Cohen, 39, was born in Rosario, Argentina, and studied medicine there, receiving his medical degree in 1990. He studied the specialty of neurosurgery until 1996 and then went on to advanced interventional neuroradiology in Buenos Aires. Umansky, who met him at a neurosurgery conference in their native country, persuaded the single surgeon, who was active in Zionist circles, to come on aliya and join him at Hadassah. In 2002, Cohen set up the endovascular neurosurgery unit, which treats congenital defects and ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Cohen's team has also conducted research on innovative stents, coils and other devices to prevent and treat strokes. The young neurosurgeon, who has been spending almost all of his time at the hospital since Sharon's second stroke, is busy even when not operating on the prime minister. He has performed brain surgery and interventional procedures on several other patients since Thursday and was doing so on Saturday night as well.