Michael Schumacher out of Coma Is Good News We'd Began to Fear Never Hearing

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2014

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari celebrates his win during the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 10, 2006, in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The news that Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One World Champion, has not only woken from an induced coma but left Grenoble hospital, has been universally welcomed.

It had been almost six months since Schumacher was admitted to the hospital having suffered severe head injuries whilst skiing with his family in the French Alps.

After a series of televised press conferences in the days following Schumacher's arrival at the Grenoble facility on December 29 last year, updates released by Sabine Kehm, the 45-year-old's manager, had become few and far between.

And the natural, human response to the long, eerie silences between each statement was to assume that, at best, Schumacher's condition had shown only minor or temporary improvements or, at worst, had deteriorated.

Kehm's latest statement, however—the first official update on Schumacher's condition since the beginning of April when the German, as reported by Daniel Johnson of The Telegraph, was experiencing "moments of consciousness and awakening"—has proven that no news doesn't necessarily mean bad news.

The update from Kehm, as quoted by Jonathan Noble of Autosport, read:

Michael has left the CHU Grenoble to continue his long phase of rehabilitation. He is not in a coma anymore.

His family would like to explicitly thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months.

The family also wishes to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes to Michael. We are sure it helped him.

For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye.

This latest piece of concrete news is undoubtedly the most positive since Schumacher suffered his skiing accident and arguably the most timely.

In the days and weeks that immediately followed the German's admission to Grenoble, the site was awash with bystanders, reporters and fans, who were seemingly waiting for their hero to appear at the window and offer a wave of reassurance.

Even Ferrari, the team which Schumacher led to glory at the turn of the century, arranged a vigil via their official website for his supporters to mark the German's birthday on a cold Friday in January. 

Since that morning, when the car park of a French hospital became a red sea of banners, caps and flags, however, television shots of fans waiting patiently outside the facility became as rare as a Kehm statement.

After the initial shock of the accident had died down, people began to realise the true extent of Schumacher's injuries. People began to accept that Schumacher, for all his greatness and for all his achievements, was just as vulnerable as the rest of us.

People—worryingly—became accustomed to the idea of Schumacher fighting for his life in a hospital bed and resigned themselves to the feeling that he would never recover.

Hope dwindled and expectation lowered.

Formula One's pre-season testing schedule began as something of a diversion tactic but soon became the prime focus as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, the team which Schumacher helped to establish at the beginning of the decade, became embroiled in the type of tense title battle which defined the German's career.

SAKHIR, BAHRAIN - APRIL 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 6, 2014 in Sakhir, Bahrain.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty I
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Schumacher, in the most innocent of ways, was very nearly forgotten.

Gary Hartstein, the former Formula One doctor, claimed via his personal blog in late March—a matter of days prior to Kehm's "consciousness and awakening update"—that it was a deliberate ploy to allow those concerned to "detatch" and distance themselves from Schumacher, so that any "really bad news" would be met with a knowing, silent shake of the head than an outcry of grief.

At the beginning of this month, Hartstein, again via a post on his personal blog, reaffirmed that he was "quite afraid (and virtually certain)" that "we will never have any good news" about Schumacher's condition. 

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 23:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Mercedes GP retires early after crashing into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne of France and Scuderia Toro Rosso during the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Septe
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

And now that unlikely good news has been released by Kehm, Hartstein has accused Schumacher's manager of "using the truth to convey an impression that is almost certainly false" and criticised her for informing the public of "what we already know" as well as her plea for privacy.  

Hartstein's knowledge, experience and ability to convey such detailed procedures in an understandable manner has been invaluable since last December, yet his recent record of effectively writing off Schumacher's prospects only for Kehm to almost immediately publish an encouraging development means he should not be relied upon as an all-knowing master.

Kehm's calls for Schumacher to continue his recovery "away from the public eye" in an unknown location is most likely an act of protection for her friends, the German's family, rather than a smokescreen.

Hasan Jamali/Associated Press

The 45-year-old's global profile will sadly ensure that speculation and rumours regarding his health will continue to linger and it is reasonable to expect that at some point in the future Kehm will be forced, for better or worse, to release further information regarding Schumacher's condition as he takes his first steps in his long road to recovery.

Over the next few days, the joy surrounding the news of Schumacher's rise from a coma, just like the news of his skiing accident, will sink in. And again, with no further statements to be made by Kehm for the foreseeable future, the subject of Schumacher's condition will slip away from the news agenda.

But this time, given these breakthrough developments, the silence will be less eerie, less daunting, less distressing. 

In those periods between future statements regarding Schumacher's condition, it is worth remembering this: no news doesn't necessarily mean bad news.

And the rest? Well, that's just a load of noise.