LYON (AFP) - Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was transferred from a French hospital to a facility in Switzerland on Monday after emerging from a coma following his devastating ski accident in December.
In a surprise announcement, the retired racing star's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said he had left hospital in the French Alpine city of Grenoble, where he had been treated since December when he slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends.
The 45-year-old was transferred to a hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne, hospital spokesman Darcy Christen later told AFP, where he will be undergoing further treatment.
"His family would like to explicitly thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months," Kehm said in a statement.
"For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye," she added.
Kehm gave no further details about Schumacher's condition, which has been kept under a tight lid since his accident in the French Alpine resort of Meribel on December 29.
The seven-time world champion underwent two operations to remove life-threatening blood clots after his freak accident that shocked the world, before being plunged into a medically induced coma.
His family announced at the end of January that drugs used to keep him in his deep sleep were being reduced with a view to bringing him back to consciousness, but few other details had filtered out since then.
Schumacher is well known for his love of adrenaline sports, and even after retiring from the high-risk world of racing, he kept pursuing other high-thrill hobbies as the holder of a pilot's license, an accomplished motorbike rider, parachutist, skier and mountain climber.
He survived a motorbike accident in Spain in 2009, during which he suffered head and neck injuries but was released from hospital after just five hours.
The accident on December 29 proved near fatal, but in several statements released to the media, his wife Corinna and two children said they remained confident that the man who defied death more than once on the track would pull through.
In her statement Monday, Kehm said Schumacher's family wanted "to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes".
"We are sure it helped him," she added.