WHITEFISH, Mont. — Former Olympic downhill champion Bill Johnson is progressing from a nearly fatal ski crash last week but remained comatose and in critical condition Wednesday.
"The fact that he's been stable now for four days is clearly an improvement," said Jim Oliverson, spokesman for Kalispell Regional Medical Center. "He's checked every 15 minutes and all the things that could go south are not happening."
Dr. Rob Hollis, the neurosurgeon who operated on Johnson, expects the skier to remain in the critical care unit another 10 days.
Johnson, who turns 41 on Friday, needs help from a ventilator but his ability to breathe on his own has improved, Oliverson said. He's also moving fingers and toes when doctors arouse him but remains unconscious.
"He keeps doing the basics and that's a good thing," Oliverson said. "He's improving in small steps, rather than leaping forward too quickly."
Doctors have said it could be weeks, months or even years before Johnson may emerge from the coma.
Johnson, who gold at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, was trying to make a comeback for the 2002 Winter Olympics before crashing a week ago.