Formula One great Michael Schumacher was admitted to a Paris hospital on Monday night for pioneering treatment.
The seven-time world champion, who turned 50 in January, has not been seen in public since a life-altering skiing accident in the French Alps more than five years ago, and his condition has remained a secret.
But it is understood the German was taken to the Pompidou hospital in southeast Paris in the afternoon where he will have stem-cell treatment carried out by French surgeon Philippe Menasche, a heart specialist.
The 69-year-old medic is best known for performing the world’s first embryonic cell transplant on a patient with heart failure in 2014.
Le Parisien newspaper reported: ‘It was at 3:40pm on Monday that a stretcher arrived on the first floor of the Georges Pompidou European Hospital.’
Schumacher was covered in a blue cloth that ‘completely covered his body and face,’ as he was taken into the Continuous Monitoring Unit of the Cardiovascular Surgery Department.
The security contingent was ‘made up of about ten people,’ the news outlet reported, adding that Professor Menache was ‘in charge of the group.’
Schumacher had originally arrived in a blue and yellow ambulance registered in Geneva. The treatment is believed to start as early as Tuesday morning, with Schumacher returning home on Wednesday.
In turn, Professor Menasche said details of Schumacher’s treatment would remain ‘secret’ for reasons of medical confidentiality. According to other sources, Michael Schumacher made at least two visits to the Georges Pompidou European Hospital early this year.
On both occasions, he arrived by helicopter from Switzerland and landed at a heliport in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. During his first stay in Paris, the patient underwent teats at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, but key work by Professor Menache was postponed.
Schumacher’s spokeswoman Sabine Kehm declined to comment on the development. Schumacher has been recuperating at home in Switzerland since he hit his head at Mirabelle and is visited only by close friends, none of whom have divulged specifics about his state of health.
Sportsmail reported last December that although he is making slow progress, if any at all, Schumacher is not bed-ridden or living day by day on tubes.
He watches F1 races on TV, including with his friend and former Ferrari boss Jean Todt, the FIA president. The skiing accident left him with severe head injuries and in a medically-induced coma for several months.
In January his family released a statement saying he was in ‘the very best of hands’. The wall of secrecy, enforced at the request of his wife Corinna, was established to protect one of the biggest names in modern sporting times.
Schumacher’s family are right to conceal his medical condition, Formula One’s head of motorsport Ross Brawn has said. Brawn is one of only a handful of people to have visited the stricken driver as he recovers alongside his family in Switzerland.
Brawn, who helped mastermind Schumacher’s success at Benetton and Ferrari, and has visited the former champion in Switzerland. “I am constantly in touch with Corinna, and I totally agree with their decision,” he said.
“Michael has always been a very private person and that’s been a guiding principle in his career, his life and his family always agreed with that choice. It’s completely understandable that Corinna has wanted to maintain the same approach, even after the tragic event, and it’s a decision we must all respect. I’m sure the millions of people who are still Michael fans will understand it, too.”
Schumacher remains motor racing’s most successful driver, with a record 91 Grand Prix wins. He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before five in a row with Ferrari between 2000-2004.
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