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Kalispell, MT, March 30, 2001–Doctors were cautiously optimistic Friday as former Olympic ski champion Bill Johnson reached his 41st birthday but remained in a coma following brain surgery from a near-fatal racing crash.
Johnson suffered severe head trauma March 22 in his crash during a race at Big Mountain, about 15 miles away. He wasunconscious when he was helicoptered off the mountain and remains comatose at Kalispell Regional Medical Center withmedical staff monitoring him several times each hour. Members of his family have been with Johnson since the mishap.
A host of family and friends was at the hospital Friday to help mark Johnson’s birthday. Medically, doctors continue toreport slow but steady progress.
Doctors have said Johnson’s athletic background, coupled with his improved conditioning as he tried a longshot comebackbid to make the 2002 Olympic Team, was an advantage in his recovery. He continues to show signs of improvement andhas been stable since the surgery, but doctors also have pointed out the need for balancing optimism with realisticexpectations as he faces potential problems in the natural course of post-surgical recovery.
Hundreds of well-wishers have sent e-mails to the U.S. Ski Team website (www.usskiteam.com) in addition to faxes,cards and other messages sent to the hospital. Hospital spokesman Jim Oliverson said family members have read each ofthe cards and messages to Johnson as they arrived.