Former IndyCar star and Paralympic hero Alex Zanardi has made positive steps towards recovery and is responding to outside stimuli.
The Corriere della Sera reports that Zanardi, who was badly injured in a handbike crash in June this year, is responding to voices with hand gestures having recovered his hearing and sight following a series of brain operations after his brutal accident.
Zanardi, 54, remains hospitalised in the neurosurgical department of the hospital of Padua. The report says that he is able to shake hands and raise his thumb in response to questions.
It’s understood that he recognises his wife Daniela, who visits him every day, but cannot speak due to a hole in his throat that doctors have kept open as a precaution should he suffer any relapses in his recovery.
Doctors had to rebuild Zanardi’s skull and face after his massive impact with a truck, and they believe that he will regain the majority of his brain functions. He suffered his accident during one of the stages of the Paralympic handbike ‘Obiettivo tricolore’ relay race on June 19.
Reports from witnesses say that he lost control, overturned and went into the oncoming lane, where he struck a goods vehicle.
After being transferred to Siena’s Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital, Zanardi underwent three hours of neurosurgery and maxillofacial surgery (related to the face). He was then placed in a medically-induced coma.
After a further two operations, he was showing signs of improvement, and on July 21 he was moved to the Villa Beretta rehabilitation facility in Costa Masnaga, close to the town of Lecco, to the north of Milan. Around this time his sedation was reduced and he was brought out of his coma.
However, shortly after the transfer his condition deteriorated, and on July 24 he was moved again to the intensive care unit of the San Raffaele Hospital, which is located between central Milan and Monza.
There he soon underwent further surgery under Professor Pietro Mortini, the facility’s director of neurosurgery, for what the hospital called “late complications due to the primal head injury.”
Zanardi is a leading Paralympic athlete, having won four gold medals on his handbike in the 2012 and 2016 games.
The Italian is a former grand prix driver who won the CART IndyCar championship twice prior to an accident at the Lausitzring in 2001 that resulted in both his legs being amputated.