Worries That Sharon Isn't Waking Up

Israeli schoolchildren show an Ariel Sharon photo album that they would like to present to Israel's ill prime minister, at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, 11 January 2006
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 Friday, though others insisted it's still too early to tell.

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

Sharon, 77, remained in "critical but stable" condition on Friday, 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 that Sharon has shown no signs of awakening, even though doctors recently began weaning him off heavy sedatives used to keep his blood pressure in check and give his brain time to heal.

Sharon's two sons have been playing classical music by his bedside in an effort to rouse him. Although doctors induced a coma, the condition may also be due to the stroke itself.

Channel 1 TV cited one of Sharon's neurosurgeons, Dr. Felix Umansky, as saying he was optimistic Sharon would emerge from his coma within 10 days.

But several outside experts 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, professor of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College at NY Presbyterian Hospital. "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."

Krumer and several outside experts cautioned that it's too early to make conclusions about Sharon's long-term recovery prospects, however. He's still receiving minimal amounts of sedatives, 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."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for