Kalispell, MT, April 11, 2001–Former Olympic ski champion Bill Johnson remained in a coma nearly three weeks after a near-fatal racing crash, but his condition had stabilized so much that doctors allowed him to leave the hospital and be flown to Portland, OR, for the next stage on his rehabilitation and recovery.
He was flown by private jet and admitted to Providence Portland Medical Center. Dr. Robert Hollis of Kalispell RegionalMedical Center, who performed the original surgery, said Johnson would undergo “a vigorous rehabilitation program” inPortland under the supervision of Dr. Molly Hoeflich, medical director of the rehabilitation unit.
Kalispell spokesman Jim Oliverson explained that Johnson’s improvement has been slow but steady as he continued toreceive round-the-clock monitoring. “This is part of the natural progression in Bill’s recovery. He has been increasinglyalert to his surroundings and has continued to improve following his surgery, and his family is optimistic this will beanother amazing step in his recovery,” Oliverson said, cautioning there is no timetable for Johnson to come out of hiscoma.
Johnson, who turned 41 on March 30, was attempting a comeback when he suffered severe head trauma and multiple bodyinjuries in a racing fall March 22 at Big Mountain, about 15 miles from this northwestern Montana community. Heunderwent brain surgery and surgery to repair his tongue, and has been in a coma since the mishap.
The move to Portland will move him closer to his family, particularly his mother DB — who lives outside Portland inGresham, Ore.
Johnson won the downhill title at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo but subsequent back and knee injuries troubledhim and he retired following the 1990 season. He is the only U.S. man to have won three World Cup downhills.