Doctor Optimistic About Johnson's Recovery

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Kalispell, MT, Mar. 28, 2001--Former Olympic ski champion Bill Johnson remained in a coma but was in stablecondition Wednesday on the seventh day after a near-fatal racing crash, but the hospital has reduced use of the ventilatorthat helped with his breathing.

Johnson, who turns 41 Friday but was hoping to make the 2002 Olympic team despite being away from ski racing for morethan a decade, underwent brain surgery last Thursday after crashing in a downhill race. He has been in a coma since thecrash at Big Mountain, about 15 miles from Kalispell, which is in northwestern Montana, near the Canadian border.

"The fact he's been stable for four days is clearly an improvement," said Jim Oliverson, spokesman for Kalispell RegionalMedical Center. "His ability to breathe has increased but he still needs help from a ventilator," the spokesman said.Johnson was expected to be in the critical care unit for another 10 days.

Johnson, the 1984 Olympic downhill gold medalist in Sarajevo, also suffered multiple injuries to his arms and legs in thecrash and required extensive surgery to repair his tongue.

Oliverson said the medical staff and family remained cautiously optimistic, realizing that despite Johnson's recovery, heremained in a coma and still faces potential problems from normal post-surgery complications such as infection andpneumonia.

"All the things that could 'go south' on you are not happening" with Johnson, he said. "A lot of these steps that can gobackwards are going forward."