CINCINNATI – A U.s. college student imprisoned by North Korea has an extensive damage to the brain and does not respond to his environment, the doctors treating him said Thursday.
A medical team from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center described Otto Warmbier’s state as a “state of vigilance who do not respond” and not say that — at the request of his family — the question of whether the 22-year-old will recover.
“He has spontaneous eye opening and blinking,” Dr. Daniel Kanter, the director of the hospital’s neurocritical care program, told reporters Thursday. “But he shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings.”
“He has not spoken,” Kanter said. “He is not engaged in purposeful movements or behaviors.”
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Warmbier arrives at the airport in his hometown of Cincinnati after 17 months in a North Korean prison.
Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea on Tuesday, after a flurry of diplomatic activity at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was serving a 15 year sentence for allegedly trying to steal a banner with a political slogan that is hanging on a wall in his Pyongyang hotel.
The North Koreans told U.S. officials that Warmbier suffer from botulism and then slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. But doctors in Cincinnati said tests showed no evidence of botulism, a powerful neurotoxin produced by a bacterium.
While the doctors said they did not know what specifically caused Warmbier’s condition, she said lack of blood supply to the brain is due. Kanter said the scans showed no evidence of a “traumatic brain injury,” and that Warmbier ‘ s condition was likely a result of a cardiovascular or pulmonary arrest.
“It is difficult to determine which of these occurred,” Kanter said.
North Korea is a pariah regime. They are brutal and they are terrorist… We can’t believe what they say.
– Fred Warmbier, father of the AMERICAN student held in North Korea for 15 months
When you are asked or examinations showed Warmbier had struck, Kantor said they ran a battery of tests to look at the long bones, ribs, pelvis and skull.
“In those scans we see no evidence of acute or healing fractures, including the skull,” Kantor said.
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Fred Warmbier lashed out at North Korea, which he called a “pariah state” under the strong man of Kim Jong-Un.
“At the request of the family, information about his prognosis, the prospects for improvement and the future of the care and treatment will remain confidential,” he added.
Earlier, Otto’s father, Fred, fired, what efforts were made in behalf of his son and by the Obama administration, who asked the family to keep a low profile when news of Otto’s arrest became public.
“The results speak for themselves,” he said in a press conference, adding that President Trump, by contrast, stuck to him personally.
“Last night we received a very nice phone call from Pres. Trump, who told us that Sec. of State Tillerson has worked hard to make Otto at home. We are very grateful for their commitment and care,” he said.
Warmbier said his son “fought to stay alive”, while in captivity since January of 2016.
“Otto is a fighter,” he said. “I’m so proud of Otto, my son, who is in a pariah regime for the last 18 months – brutalized and terrorized.”
“His spirit is with us, and I can share in his spirit with my spirit,” said Warmbier, who wear the very same light-coloured blazer and his son wore during his trial in North Korea in March 2016.
His disgust for the regime in Pyongyang was crystal clear. “We went for 15 months without a word from or about Otto. It was only a week ago that we were informed that the North Korean government is now claiming he was in a coma for almost all of that time. Even if you believe that their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill which the coma — and we don’t, there is no excuse for a civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and denied him top notch medical care for so long. North Korea is a pariah regime, they are brutal (feed loses quality) and they are terrorist.”
Warmbier was held on Jan. 2, 2016, at the Pyongyang International Airport, during a visit to the country as a tourist with Young Pioneer Tours. He was charged with stealing the sign of a staff-only floor in the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, and the committing of “crimes against the state.” He got a one-hour test in March 2016, when the government presented fingerprints, CCTV footage and photos of a political banner to the case against the American student.
“I hope you see how I am also but a man,” Warmbier said at his trial. “And how have I made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Despite his entreaties, the student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In a post-trial video to be released to the world, Warmbier, under the obvious duress, praised his captors for his treatment and for the treatment of the case “fair and square.”
In Wyoming, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, friends and neighbors from Warmbier said they were delighted the young man was at home, but expressed serious concerns about his condition.
“We are very concerned for his health and the future,” said neighbor Tom Purdy. “We hope that he can return to normal. We have prayed for him every night.”
Wyoming High School, where Warmbier attended, students described him as a “remarkable person” who was known in the community for his academic performance and sportsmanship.
Warmbier’s release release three U.S. citizens currently known to be held in North Korea: accounting professor Kim Sang Duk, businessman Kim Dong-Chul and Kim Hak-Song, who worked at Pyongyang University.