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Doctors Begin to Bring Sharon Out of Coma

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

Doctors in Jerusalem say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began breathing on his own and moved slightly in response to pain today. But as NPR's Linda Gradstein reports, doctors say he's not yet opened his eyes, and he remains in critical condition.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Doctors today began reducing the level of sedation Sharon has been receiving since he suffered a massive stroke on Wednesday. The director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, said Sharon began breathing on his own, although he is still connected to a respirator.

Mr. SHLOMO MOR-YOSEF (Director, Hadassah Hospital): His response to pain that we evoked, he started to move minimally his right hand and right leg. But still, the condition of prime minister is severe and critical with some signs of brain activity.

GRADSTEIN: Doctors say the process of bringing Sharon out of his medically induced coma may take days. And only then will they know how much brain damage he has suffered. Sharon was put in the coma to allow his brain to heal after three operations to stem bleeding. Doctors say they hope there will be more movement and that he will regain consciousness. Many Israelis have been glued to television reports of Sharon's condition, and today's offered the first glimpse of optimism. The doctors say the left side of Sharon's brain, which controls speech, has not been affected, and it is possible he will regain this function. Sharon's surgeons say there is a good chance he will live, although outside experts say it's almost certain he will never return to politics. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Gradstein
Linda Gradstein has been the Israel correspondent for NPR since 1990. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Gulf War. Linda spent 1998-9 as a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University.