Formula 1 - Schumacher's wakening ‘stressful and frightening’ - particularly for family

Doctors have warned that Michael Schumacher's family face further dark days, despite the Formula 1 legend now being awakened from his coma.

The 45-year-old has been in hospital in Grenoble for over a month after hitting his head in a serious skiing accident just before New Year.

His wife, Corinna, has spent the last five weeks by his bedside, and things appeared to have taken a turn for the better last week as doctors confirmed that they are beginning the process of rousing the seven-time world champion from his artificially-induced coma.

But that process will be stressful for all involved, according to experts.

"Waking from a coma is not like how it is portrayed in the movies," explained Luke Griggs, a spokesman for UK-based brain injury charity Headway.

"It can be a very gradual process that can take several days or weeks."

Griggs, speaking to the BBC, added that the old set of fears will be replaced by new challenges.

"For the family, the initial fear about whether or not the individual will survive is replaced by fear of what the future will hold and what level of recovery their loved one will make.

"Put simply, the effects of brain injury can be devastating and last a lifetime. It can change every aspect of you: walking, talking, thinking and feeling. It can change personalities as well as capabilities."

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, who was in a coma in 2006 after a high-speed crash during filming, said how much tougher it will be for Schumacher's wife than for the driver himself.

"It only became relevant to me later when I grasped what had happened," he said last month, speaking to Radio Five Live and also writing in his Daily Mirror column.

"For Michael right now - and he's the one we're all thinking about - the harsh reality is that it makes no difference. At the moment it's his family who will be affected…

"My heart goes out to his family and everyone around him because they can't do anything but hope he gets better.

"Coming out of it, it was a long time before I could accept what had happened. As far as I was concerned I was having a nice lie down in a bed…

"[My wife] Mindy’s face fell when she heard about Michael because it stirs memories for her more than it does for me. She is immediately taken back to what happened to me more than I am because I was in a coma.

"It’s very hard for those around the injured person. My heart goes out to his family and everyone around him because they can’t do anything but hope he gets better."

The BBC also spoke to paramedic Mark Smith, whose son went in to an induced coma last July, and took until Christmas before he was able to speak even a few words.

"Unfortunately the public perception is that people just wake up and start their everyday activities after a couple of days," said Smith.

"That's not the case. It is very slow; there are no finite answers. You just have to stay hopeful that you will get interaction back one day."

Research published in The Lancet shows that just 20 per cent of brain injury victims make a good recovery, and neurosurgeon Peter Kirkpatrick of Cambridge's Addenbrooke's hospital has said that it is "extremely unlikely" that Schumacher will make a full recovery.

Long-term effects could range from disabilities to personality changes. Olympic rower James Cracknell has spoken about his difficulty returning to normal life after his cycling accident in 2010 - and he has written in his autobiography how hard it has been in particular for wife Beverley.

"I worry that Bev will always look at me in a slightly different way. She was summoned to a hospital in America to say goodbye because they didn't think I'd live," he wrote.

"Then she was told I would but that I wouldn't know who she was at first and I wouldn't be the man she married. For her, and for my family, I hope that I'm learning to adapt to the guy who is 'nearly James Cracknell'."