MILAN — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi was transferred Saturday to a hospital in Padua to continue his recovery, more than five months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.
Zanardi underwent several surgeries at hospitals in Siena and later in Milan to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face after crashing into an oncoming truck during a June 19 relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza.
“The patient has reached a generally stable physical and neurological condition that permitted his transfer to another hospital equipped with all the necessary clinical specialties and closer to the family home,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement.
Zanardi, 54, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.
A month after the crash, Zanardi suffered a setback when he was moved back to intensive care from a neurological rehabilitation center. But his condition generally seems to have improved since then.
He was released from intensive care in August after “responding with significant critical improvements.”
Over the course of several days in September, Zanardi began responding to treatment with signs of interaction to visual and acoustic stimuli in cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions.
Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He 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 (1996-97) in the CART series who also drove in Formula One and IMSA.
Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement in June, assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.