- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s failure to wake up from a coma nine days after suffering a massive stroke does not bode well for his recovery, some doctors said yesterday.

With extensive brain damage looking likely, Israelis have begun to look ahead to life without Mr. Sharon.

Mr. Sharon, 77, remained in “critical but stable” condition yesterday, showing no change from the previous day, said Hadassah Hospital spokesman Ron Krumer.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV and Army Radio cited Hadassah officials as saying they were worried Mr. Sharon has shown no signs of awakening, even though doctors have begun weaning him off heavy sedatives used to keep his blood pressure in check and give his brain time to heal.

However, Mr. Krumer and outside specialists cautioned it’s too early to make conclusions about Mr. Sharon’s long-term prospects. He’s still receiving minimal amounts of sedatives, Mr. Krumer said, adding, “The period of time it takes a patient to wake up from such a condition after undergoing such an event differs from one patient to another.”

Mr. Sharon’s two sons have been playing classical music by his bedside in an effort to rouse him.

One of Mr. Sharon’s neurosurgeons, Dr. Felix Umansky, told Channel 1 TV he was optimistic Mr. Sharon would emerge from his coma within 10 days. But several outside specialists said the prognosis looked poor.

“People can often wake up over a period of weeks and months, but if they wake up faster obviously it bodes better,” said Dr. Howard Riina at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “The fact that he’s not completely awake at this point does not bode well for a good neurologic recovery.”

Dr. Nick Ward, a neurologist at London’s University College, was more blunt.

“It’s a bad prognostic indicator,” he said. “He’s not going to get back to normal, that’s for sure.”

Doctors have reported only slight improvement in Mr. Sharon’s condition in the past several days, centering on small movements of limbs in response to pain.

A brain scan Thursday showed the remnants of blood in his brain have been absorbed, the hospital said. In response, doctors removed a tube they had inserted into his skull to relieve pressure on his brain.

Mr. Sharon’s stroke and subsequent surgeries plunged both Israeli politics and Middle East peace prospects into turmoil.

In a sign that Israelis are moving on, however, the prime minister’s condition was taken off the front pages of several Israeli newspapers yesterday. Television has returned to normal programming, and many Israelis watched a basketball game on TV Thursday night.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with two U.S. envoys yesterday to discuss Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections, which have stirred wide concern because of Hamas militants’ participation in them.

Also yesterday, Israel Radio reported Mr. Olmert will appoint the popular justice minister, Tzipi Livni, as the new foreign minister, making her the most senior woman in the government.

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