Schumacher family 'overwhelmed'

Preston and Leyland Citizen: Supporters of Michael Schumacher hold Ferrari flags to mark his 45th birthday in front of the Grenoble hospital where he is being treated. (AP) Supporters of Michael Schumacher hold Ferrari flags to mark his 45th birthday in front of the Grenoble hospital where he is being treated. (AP)

Michael Schumacher's family today said they were "overwhelmed" after fans of the Formula One champion gathered at the hospital where he is being treated on his 45th birthday.

The racing driver, who suffered a severe head injury while skiing off-piste in the resort of Meribel in France last Sunday, remains in an artificially induced coma.

He is in a critical but stable condition and it is believed that his life was saved by his skiing helmet, which split on impact.

In a message posted on Schumacher's website, his family wrote: "We are overwhelmed! The incredible sympathies shown today by the Ferrari fans outside the hospital has utterly overwhelmed us and moved us all to tears. We are deeply grateful for it and also for all the heart-warming and heartfelt wishes for Michael to get well soon, which have reached us from all over the world."

After the accident, which happened while Schumacher was skiing with his family, rescuers were on hand within minutes. The driver was initially conscious before deteriorating into a critical condition.

He was airlifted to Grenoble hospital, where neurosurgeons have operated twice to remove blood clots on the brain and reduce swelling.

Doctors have said the impact caused numerous brain injuries including intracranial haematomas (multiple blood clots), bilateral lesions and bruising of the brain.

An initial operation carried out on Sunday to reduce swelling was followed by a second to remove the largest of a number of clots in his brain. Jacqueline Hubert, the Grenoble hospital's director general, said on Tuesday that his condition had started to improve.

Schumacher retired from F1 for the final time in 2012 after a three-season comeback with Mercedes. Schumacher, who also raced for Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari, won the last of his world titles in 2004.

He won two with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Ferrari and winning five in a row from 2000. The German has 91 career wins.

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