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Portland, Ore. April 12, 2001 (AP by Landon Hall)–Bill Johnson continued to make small gains Thursday in his recovery from a devastating skiing accident in Montana that left the 1984 gold medalist in a coma.
“He’s doing well; he had a good night,” said Lisa Godwin, a spokeswoman for Providence Medical Center.
Johnson, 41, was transferred to Portland by private jet from a hospital in Kalispell, Mont., on Wednesday. Doctors at Providence will determine whether Johnson is mentally and physically strong enough to begin rigorous therapy at the hospital’s rehabilitation unit.
Johnson, who brashly predicted his victory in the downhill at the Sarajevo Olympics, was attempting a comeback at age 40 when he crashed face-first on hard-packed snow March 22 during a warmup for the U.S. Alpine Championships in Whitefish, Mont.
Family members say Johnson has made countless tiny steps in the right direction over the last two weeks. His eyes were open when he left the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, and his stepfather, Jimmy Cooper, said Johnson looked around the plane during Wednesday’s 75-minute flight to Portland.
During his first full day at Providence, hospital staff reported that Johnson continued to respond to outside stimulus.
“He can follow some staff commands, such as opening his mouth,” Godwin said. “So he’s incrementally getting better.”
Dr. Molly Hoeflich, who runs the hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation unit, is scheduled to publicly discuss Johnson’s treatment on Friday. About 300 patients are treated each year at the unit, and 50 to 60 have suffered head injuries.
Doctors must decide whether Johnson can withstand the unit’s rehabilitation regiment, which includes at least three hours a day of intensive physical and occupational therapy. If he is strong enough, therapists will work to get Johnson walking and functioning again, and help his family learn to deal with the special challenges of his long-term recovery.
If Johnson isn’t ready for such work, he could be transferred to a nursing facility in Milwaukie, Ore., a suburb.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press