Alex Zanardi moved back to intensive care as condition becomes unstable

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File
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MILAN — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi was moved back into intensive care Friday after falling into unstable condition, three days after being transferred to a neurological rehabilitation center.

Zanardi was moved Tuesday from a hospital in Siena to the Villa Beretta rehab center in Costa Masnaga, a month after getting seriously injured in a handbike crash.

But the hospital which runs the center said Zanardi has been transferred to the intensive care unit at the San Raffaelle hospital in Milan after his condition became unstable. His son, Niccolo, expressed concern about the ability to communicate with Alex Zanardi and the length of the rehabilitation prior to him falling into unstable condition again.

Zanardi, 53, underwent three delicate surgeries at the Siena hospital to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face after crashing into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event. He had been on a ventilator in a medically induced coma since the crash.

Zanardi, lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

He was a winner and two-time champion in the CART series who also drove in Formula One and IMSA.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.