Katusha's Kim Kirchen shows slight improvement following heart attack, still in coma
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Katusha's Kim Kirchen shows slight improvement following heart attack, still in coma

by Steve Jones at 9:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de Suisse, Injury
Schleck dedicates Tour de Suisse win to expecting father

Kim KirchenTeam Katusha has reported that Kim Kirchen's condition has improved slightly following his reported heart attack just before midnight in Switzerland on Friday evening.  The Luxembourg time trial champion was with teammate Joaquim Rodriguez in their room at the time he complained that he wasn't feeling well and collapsed.  The Spaniard reacted quickly and called for help that came in the form of team doctor Andrei Mikhailov and Marc Joseph, a family friend and retired firefighter, who began to perform CPR.

"The Specialist that treated Kim at the University Hospital in Zurich told me on Sunday morning that his heart function is slowly recovering," sports physician Charles Delagardelle, who has worked with Kirchen for 15 years, told the Wort newspaper.

The tragic news is compounded by his wife Caroline being due to give birth to twins later this week.  "He was so happy he could be there, since it was just before the Luxembourg Championship and the Tour," explained journalist Denis Bastien from Le Quotidien. "He had also learned Friday that he was selected for the Tour [de France]. He wanted to take to opportunity to make up for his difficult spring."

The newspaper confirms that Kirchen's heart stopped on Friday evening, but the news that there has been improvement is an encouraging sign.  His problems began in the lead up to the E3 Prijs when he had a problem with a saddle sore infection.  The Katusha rider went on a heavy dose of antibiotics, and ended up in the hospital after a bad reaction to the medication.  Doctors couldn't find any problems with Kirchen and sent him home.

He looked set to ride in the Brabantse Pijl, but two days before the race he was out training and ended up being taken to the hospital by ambulance after being found unconscious on the side of the road.  Doctors were again unable to diagnose the problem.  The problem crept up again during Flèche Wallonne on the first climb up the Mur de Huy.   People close to Kirchen told the De Standaard that "his vision went black, and he suddenly didn't know where he was".

Kirchen is expected to remain in an induced coma at the University Hospital of Zurich until at least Tuesday, when doctors will also bring up his core temperature.  His neurological condition is still unknown at the time.  He was visited by teammates following the conclusion of the Tour de Suisse, and his family is also there by his side.

For years there has been competitive division in Luxembourg when it comes to cycling.  You either root for the Kirchens or you root for the Schlecks.  The intense rivalry began decades ago with former professionals Johnny Schleck, the father of Saxo Bank's Andy and Fränk, and Jeng Kirchen, the brother of Kirchen's grandfather.

The dedication of Fränk Schleck's Tour de Suisse win to Kirchen yesterday underscores that their rivalry is one that is left on the road, and the Luxembourger will have both sides of the sport urging a speedy recovery on.  A recent father, the situation is likely very personal for the older Schleck brother.

"My whole family and our friends are all thinking about him and are wishing that he gets well.  The last several hours haven't been easy for Andy and myself," explained Fränk.  "After we had received the news of his admission to hospital it was very difficult to concentrate fully on the sport."


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