Letters: What the future may hold for Schumacher

These letters were published in the 7th January edition of the Independent

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With reference to your story about Michael Schumacher possibly being “out of danger” after his skiing accident and head injury (4 January), it should be pointed out to lay observers that, even though it has been reported that Mr Schumacher was wearing a helmet at the time of his accident, he still has had a serious injury.

As far as we know, he has had a closed-head injury (ie no skull fracture) and this will certainly lessen the risk of brain-tissue tearing by depressed skull fragments. However, closed-head injuries have their own – just as serious – problems. When the soft brain is thrown against the hard skull at speed, there will almost always be bruising and haemorrhage/haematomas, along with brain-tissue swelling, causing an excess in pressure within the skull.

Neurosurgeons will usually have to dissolve haematomas and drain off some blood and cerebrospinal fluid so that specialised areas of the brain are not damaged by excessive pressure.

The moment of impact will probably have caused tissue tearing regardless of the helmet, and this tearing can be acutely felt if a cranial nerve (controlling many of the sensory and/or motor functions) is damaged or disabled.

“Depth” of coma is measured worldwide using the Glasgow Coma Scale, and the relative severity of the injury by the period of post-traumatic amnesia, or PTA (from moment of trauma until the restoration of normal, continuous memory). A very severe brain injury will result in loss of consciousness of more than 48 hours and PTA of more than seven days, so it’s likely that Mr Schumacher could be in that category.

After a road traffic collision many years ago, I survived after a coma of about four weeks and PTA of around six weeks. As the clinicians are saying, it is far too early to make a prognosis at this stage: every patient is different and there are many variables to consider. Early treatment is one, but age is another – younger patients tend to make better recoveries.

I was 26 at the time of my injury and, after assessment at a hospital in the Scottish Highlands, was transferred to the Institute of Neurological Sciences in Glasgow. I’ve made a fairly decent recovery from my orthopaedic injuries, but I’ll probably always have epilepsy (common after brain injuries), double vision and poor memory.

Once Michael Schumacher is discharged from hospital looking brand-new, people should bear in mind that he will have unseen injuries too. Paradoxically, for a champion racing driver, he may have to surrender his driving licence.

Barry Lees


Pressure on midwives is soul-destroying

Everything that I read in the piece regarding midwifery is so true (“A call from the midwife: Why I am resigning after 10 years in the NHS”, 3 January).

I, also, have worked in the NHS, for over 30 years, and it is, indeed, soul-destroying. We are constantly short-staffed, sickness is rife, and morale is rock-bottom.

Where I work, the introduction of “e-rostering” is the final nail in the coffin. A computer does our roster, requests are very limited, and to plan a life round this is nigh impossible. Days and nights – 13 hours – are in the same week, paperwork has quadrupled, and we are constantly being assessed.

Newly qualified midwives don’t stand a chance, and we need to nurture them. It’s such a stressful job for a  21-year-old.

Another disillusioned midwife

Name and address withheld

Profumo cover-up seems to go on and on

Andrew Lloyd Webber presented a television programme recently about the subject of his latest stage production, Stephen Ward – the fall guy in the Profumo Affair, allegedly.

That there was a miscarriage of justice can scarcely be in doubt now, and yet, it was recently stated that the retained documents would be kept secret until 2039 at the earliest and possibly until 2064.

It is beyond belief that any useful purpose is served by this pathologically obsessional secrecy. On the contrary, the impression is given of a continuing establishment cover-up.

As the Cold War is now decades behind us, I am sure that any government that chose the path of “truth and reconciliation” on this and many other topics currently hidden from public view would score a vast number of brownie points with the public and historians alike.

Steve Ford

Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

Milton Keynes still a city of the future

The concept of a future city could not be timelier, with renewed political interest in new towns as a solution to our housing crisis (“Concrete bungle”, 30 December).

While capturing the Modernist vision of the early pioneers of Milton Keynes, your review of the exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery failed to capture the sense of future that still exists in the city.

This was a new experiment in community building on a grand scale not matched by the other post-war new towns.

For every bit of concrete, there is a park, woodland or riverbank to match it. The fusion of green space and urban development underpins the power of a vision to sustain a new city that has grown to more than 230,000 residents and is still expanding.

While many areas suffer from nimbyism, Milton Keynes retains its pioneering spirit. We get expansion, when it is done right. We understand the benefits of culture, shared stories and prosperity from building a city. Having grown up alongside the development of Milton Keynes, I can still feel the energy as the city seeks to define its vision for the next 40 years of its growth.

If politicians want to learn about building new towns or the next generation of garden cities, they could start by visiting our small patch of Buckinghamshire.

Andrew Pakes

Labour and Co-operative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South

I am not sure where Zoe Pilger gets her information that “the new towns experiment emerged out of the 1945 Welfare State”. I think Ebenezer Howard and the good burghers of Letchworth Garden City (1908) would take issue with that statement.

Ron Bird

Pinner, London

Pensioners care about more than themselves

Why is it always assumed that when we pensioners vote, we do it with nothing but our own interests in mind? Might we not be thinking of our children, grandchildren or society at large – or is that just inconceivable today?

Alan Stennett

Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

Some women are too busy to write

Penny Joseph (letter, 6 January) could be firing in the wrong direction when she accuses The Independent of discriminating against women letter writers.

Quite a few of my offerings have appeared on these pages since I have had time, following retirement, to sit down and write.

Perhaps she should look at the limitations on women’s freedom of expression, which result from the often excessive demands of work and home placed on the modern emancipated female. The demands of the festive season fall particularly hard on women.

Carole Lewis

Shirley, Solihull

After the ashes nothing will change

After the Ashes, I predict:

The captain, coach or a player will say: “I have let myself down, I have let my team down and I have let the country down.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board will say: “We will learn from this and move forward” and “We will build a team based on experience and youth for the future.” No one will be held accountable for the debacle in Australia. Stuart Broad will continue to act in a manner that goads rivals to even better performance. The media will continue the hyperbole in its comments on our cricketing talent and capability, building false gods with feet of clay. And the show will go on...

Ramji Abinashi

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Cameron’s record on promises

David Cameron promises to keep the “triple lock” for pensions if re-elected. Is this the same David Cameron who, before the last election, loudly promised no major NHS reorganisation, no increase in VAT, no change to universal benefits, no increase in university tuition fees (it wasn’t just Clegg), and no more yah-boo politics?

Norman Evans

East Horsley, Surrey

Equality! fashion for men looks daft too

Looking at the picture with the article “A ‘Made in Britain’ fashion revival” (4 January), I was delighted to see that fashion designers are as capable of making young men look ridiculous as they are young women. They are more even-handed in their exploitation than I had feared.

Barbara Phillips

Beeston, Nottinghamshire