Sharon moves hand and leg as he emerges from coma

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The Independent Online

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved his right hand and right leg slightly after doctors stimulated him with pain, "a very important" sign about his recovery from a major stroke, doctors said today.

Doctors began removing Sharon from a medically induced coma this morning.

By the afternoon, he had begun breathing on his own, though he was still on a respirator to assist him, said Dr Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Hadassah Hospital, where Sharon is being treated.

Sharon's blood pressure rose during stimulation - a positive sign - and he moved his hand, "a small movement, but significant," he said. He also moved his leg.

He remained in critical condition and on sedatives, though at a lower level than before. Doctors said they would continue reducing the level of sedatives over the next few days.

Dr Felix Umansky, the chief neurosurgeon treating Sharon, said doctors hoped that as the sedatives are further decreased that Sharon will have a greater response to pain stimulation, including opening his eyes.

It is still too early to say what impact the massive bleeding Sharon suffered in the right part of his brain will have on his cognitive abilities or on the left side of his body, he said. However, his early responses were "a very important" sign, he said.

"Once he talks to us ... and there are no other infections I will be willing to say that he is completely out of danger," he said.

Dr Umansky said the doctors could put Sharon under again if his condition worsens.

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