Merci, Monsieur

No one who has read even parts of Philippe Bianchi’s words could be other than deeply moved, or help feeling almost unbearably close to fellow humans’ suffering. More than a “press release”, Jules’ father spoke with us, shared with us thoughts and information that is usually, and rightfully, intensely private.

And I can only hope Jules, and his parents, have an idea of just how many people feel connected to them now.

It says something about people that here, now, discussing medicine feels wildly inappropriate. What is happening behind the doors of the ICU in Mie Hospital is not for us. Because we are connected with Jules’ family now, because that’s what’s important.

I don’t think we can talk about better or worse media “strategies”. Michael’s early course was about head injury. This isn’t.

This is about people. Jules’ family. And their humanity and dignity are staggering.


61 thoughts on “Merci, Monsieur

  1. This is interesting news on Michael Schumacher. It’s all over the media today but I’m not going to send link as they have as usual hyped it up too much. I was just interested to see that one of the original -doctors has visited him and confirmed that he is making some progress. No-one but a tabloid journalist would interpret this as a claim that Schumacher will make a full recovery but I think this sounds better than being in a permanent veg state or minimally conscious state.

    Jean-Francois Payen, one of the main doctors at the Grenoble hospital that treated Schumacher after his injury in December 2013, has visited the Schumacher family at home in Switzerland.

    Dr Payen, who cared for Schumacher for six months after the crash, said the former race car driver is no longer in a coma and is slowly getting better.

    ‘Life after a head injury is punctuated by stages,’ Payen told RTL radio on Thursday. He predicted a convalescence of one to three years.

    • I’d just add that he also paid tribute to his wife Corinna and his family.
      One gets the impression that whatever one may or may not think about Michael as a driver (and personally I had nothing but the greatest admiration for him) they must be a quite extraordinarily coherent and kind family.
      I still cannot remember a single greater tragedy befalling a sporting icon of his stature.

      • I thought it was really lovely that he said that Corinna was in the same situation as any other family member in a similar situation and that she fully appreciated how severe the injury was. He was only talking about typical recovery period for all such patients but he confirmed that they do better at home, which is so obvious as they would just be cared for by carers on the minimum wage in the UK and probably abused. Michael Schumacher is very lucky that he has money and a devoted family.

        I am following a charity called BIG which was set up by wives/mothers with patients in a similar situation in the UK. They all met on the Devonshire Ward, Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability in Putney. It’s very interesting as all have had to fight for their family members – without this I’m sure people just quietly die.

      • Oscar Pistorius….a tragedy that will change the course of his life forever. Different but the same. We “fall” in many different ways. The person suffers, the family suffers and the public is left to try to make sense of it.

    • What is MS going to be like after that three years? Normal? Normal as the laymen knows it. I doubt it. If so he will be one for Ripley.

      • No Mimi – not normal. But alive and able to communicate in some way with his wife who really loves him. It’s not for outsiders – it’s for the family.

      • For Jane….you’re right. As long as MS can have some kind of relationship with his wife and children somewhere down the road that is all that matters. It will be possibly a new normal for them. That family is very lucky that they have the means to afford the best care and rehab possible. I wish them the best!!!!

      • Yes – and now that Jules has survived 3 weeks after his injury we could well be at the beginning of a similar journey for him and his family………

  2. Hi Gary

    Having just scrolled back through all your posts I have just realised that you have been writing this blog for almost exactly a year and so congratulations on your first anniversary and I bet you didn’t expect when you started writing it that you would have so many followers a year afterwards.

    This is such a valuable resource. Who would have thought that there would be 2 major head injuries in that time. Although this is very sad there must be many more people who know about head injury now.

    I’ve even heard you on Radio 5 a couple of times – it was the BBC that directed people to your site after Christmas when Michael Schumacher was first injured. So on behalf of all your new followers this year, thanks very much and I hope it is a good sign that Jules is still alive 2 weeks after his injury.

    Greeting from the UK on a very warm Sunday afternoon in Oct

    • Thanks SO much, Jane. I’d not expected this at all. And obviously, I’d trade even having a blog at all for both Michael and Jules to be healthy right now.

      I’ve learned a huge amount through writing here. Not only about writing (but I’ve really learned a lot about that), but about people, the press, ethics. I’ve loved more than I ever thought possible the interaction with the people who read and comment on what I write.

      It’s been a fantastic experience, and there are still tons of things to write about!

      Greetings back from a lovely balmy Belgium!

  3. “Too fast” is not a fixed speed, and always variable based on the conditions one is driving on. Whilst 3 laps earlier the corner speed may have been quite ok, it is clear that on this occasion the speed was too fast considering the trackside obstacles, the double yellows, the track surface and so forth. The very fact that the accident happened at all means that this is irrefutable unless Marussia are investigating car failure – of which there is NO indication.
    Its horribly sad and impossible to look at this without having sympathy for the people involved, but when millions of dollars are on the line, or the chance for career progression in one of the toughest job markets in existence, it’s no surprise that people will push, and all too often, exceed the limits of reason and sometimes physics.
    Most drivers have been quoted at some point or another saying something along the lines of “you dont think about the risk, or you wont be fast – you always think it will never happen to you”. The challenge now, and one that keeps getting missed between all the talk of closed cockpits and safety car deployment, is how do you fundamentally change the risk culture among a group of drivers whose lives have existed around the premise of pushing the limits at all times, regardless of the risk.

    • You don’t try and change a culture. You impose rules. To say ‘slow down’ is not enough. You say “slow down to xxmph in an area of stationary yellows, and slow down to xx mph in an area of waved yellows”. All the data is available on the telemetry.
      1st offence, £5000 fine and a drive through, 2nd, £10000 fine and a stop and go, 3rd offence, instant disqualification and exclusion from the next GP. Double the financial penalty for when it’s wet. No appeals process.

      • These guys have so much money that a $10,000 fine is chump change to them. Disqualify them, first offense then you’ll get their attention.

  4. Gary – have you anything to say about Jean Louis Moncet’s total climb down in respect of his comments about the GoPro Camera ‘being responsible’ for Michael Schumacher’s injuries and, as far as I can see, about the fact that he never actually spoke with Michael’s son. A new low I feel, and if true has this any impact of whether one does or does not give out accurate information from the so-called horse’s mouth instead of relying on …. Eh “journalists”!!?

    • I’ve tried to avoid the “details” of JeanLouisgate. I know and like Jean-Louis very much, and have built up respect for him as a journalist. That led to considerable cognitive dissonance when this first broke. That said, the police enquiry absolved the camera (from what I understood at the time), and as I mentioned months ago, there’s no need to evoke camera-damage when the mechanism of injury was largely sufficient to produce the injuries sustained.

      • “Cognitive dissonance” …. Must remember that for the next dinner party I’m invited to! 🙂
        “My dear … Your conversation suggests you are under the influence of Cognitive dissonance”
        As you know him, I’ll leave it there!

  5. Why is Bianchi’s team trying to quiet his mother? What are they afraid of? The truth?

    This women may lose her son and F1 makes it all about money. That’s the real tragedy.

    • It’s been reported (God, just hope we haven’t been duped again !!) that Mme Bianchi has hinted at some aspects of her son’s crash that “those in charge” don’t really want to talk about …

      • Ultimately, it’s the pilot in command who’s responsible for his ship. If, on the other hand, there is solid evidence of a team requesting a driver to contravene the International Sporting Code (“be prepared to stop”), that would presumably elicit (regardless of the consequences of said request) the severest of responses by the regulatory authority.

      • To be honest, and I’m not going to get involved in a debate about this, there is absolutely nothing strange about not slowing sufficiently under double yellows, aquaplaning, and hitting the intervention vehicle for which the flags were displayed. Period.

      • You mean besides going much too fast? And besides the fact that numerous cars had stability problems through this portion of the track? Not sure what’s strange about any of that.

        If your wife calls you while you’re driving and tells you to hurry up, to run stop signs to get home faster, and you have an accident, it’s YOUR fault, not your wife’s.

      • As I’m sure you’ve seen people are accusing Marussia of telling Bianchi to go as fast as possible. Perhaps f1 teams should tell their drivers to slow down in yellow flag conditions more. Regardless, any crane use on the track area needs a safety car.

      • Actually, the flags tell them that, and have been doing so for decades. Perhaps if the drivers prove themselves incapable of understanding that, they should be sent home.

        And no, any crane use most certainly does NOT require a safety car. It requires disciplined drivers, kept in line by an intransigent race control and stewards who brutally insist on strict obedience with the international sporting code. Simple.

        Improved compatibility between race cars and intervention vehicles would be a fruitful area for a bit of R & D though, for sure.

      • Martin Brundle made the point the other day that he would much prefer to collide with a stranded F1 than with a crane.
        Given the risk of either being fairly low (and fellow readers please don’t shout at me “well, it happened to Jules” … I know it did!) could leaving the cars where they are maybe be an option, unless of course they present a real and present risk to traffic (Monaco etc) in which case, if we absolutely must in these strange days of trying to invent No Risk Motor racing (acronym NRMR) the safety car could be let loose.
        Stupid idea? Probably

      • It’s not at all stupid – in fact, it’s the way things were done quite often until pretty recently.

        It’s only in the last 10 years or so that every car had to be cleared. Before this, a car left in a non dangerous position was signalled by a single stationary yellow for three laps, after which it was assumed to be known to the drivers. The obsession with clearing every car is just that, an obsession.

      • To say the last (before I go out to dinner and use my new expression!) not only are there marshalls flapping yellow flag around frantically at the scene of an incident, but there are I believe yellow flashing lights at the same point, as well as lights in the cockpit all telling the driver the same message. SLOW DOWN!

      • And she said, and I’ll paraphrase, F1 is all about money.

        To me she is insinuating there is a cover up in process about what Bianchi’s pit said to him about slowing down and not slowing down. In other words, F! is covering their collective asses.

      • Don’t worry Mimi … I get the distinct impression Mme Bianchi won’t let them get away with it. I know that sort of feisty French woman … The people she goes after (if she does) will end up wishing they’d never been born!

  6. I think what made his interview all the more powerful is that he expressed the fear, hope, love and warmth all of us who ever encountered his son are experiencing about this horrible situation, but with the power and depth only a father can feel. Our pain is just a drop in the ocean in comparison. As you read, you can picture him sat across the table expressing it all verbally and non-verbally. He’s a gifted communicator, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to read and empathise with.

    #ForzaJules and forza Philippe, family and friends too.

  7. What an impressive man Philippe Bianchi is! Best wishes to Jules, his family, friends and motorsport colleagues. Let’s hope and pray for a good outcome for them all.

  8. I am a little perplexed by the statement from Marussia this morning as they seem to be addressing an issue that wasn’t an issue until they turned it into one. I never saw any serious suggestion of what Marussia are saying was written.
    We know Jules slowed down (Charlie Whiting said so) .. what we do not know is how much he slowed down and the FIA don’t want to tell us that, so people make the not unreasonable assumption that he was indeed going too fast to be able to stop if required, as the rules dictate. The degree of ‘too fast’ is immaterial and the closing speed of the accident itself indicated that he was going too fast for the conditions.
    And as for keeping ahead of the Caterhams … He is a racing driver … they do that thing of trying to keep in front of the car behind. It’s called racing …. he would not need instructions from his team to do that, even under yellow flag conditions.
    Has the blame game now started?

    • I’m not going to link to it Peter, but Germany’s biggest newspaper (Bild) ran a big article making the points Marussia refuted today.

      With this having been run in such an influential – albeit very tabloid – publication in such a crucial country as Germany, my view is that the strong rebuttal they made was their only option.

      • I take your point … but the article (which I looked up) was rather tucked away and has been superseded by something else now …. but by making such a public statement on the matter Marussia have put it much more out in the open. I suggest had they kept quiet, or used less florid language “shocked angered” etc it would have sunk without trace and I just hope that for once there is no fire where there appears to be some smoke.
        Don’t know about you, but I was pretty surprised by the hard partying antics on the Monaco bound jet which was a few columns further own. With F1 in the spotlight for the Bianchi tragedy, such ‘selfies’ – which included Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard – might have been better left unpublished.

  9. It is unimaginable to imagine the fear he must feel when the phone rings. I am sure, in your career in medicine Gary, that you have witnessed that there is no greater pain than losing a child. The fear of losing one’s child is even greater than the fear of death to oneself. Monsieur Bianchi is a truly courageous man. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and Jules.

  10. This taps into something universal deeper than words and speaks to everyone of human suffering and somehow connects us all. There is something about the translation which makes it even more poignant. Very moving.

  11. Indeed, like yourself & others, having read that statement I feel deeply saddened, yet very privileged as part of the F1 community. I too stand in awe of the courage of Jules’ parents. I remain hopeful despite the current status. Something inside me believes that this situation can & will turn around. I join the rest of our F1 community in prayers for Jules & his family.

  12. Yes, very sad. Their pain is palpable.
    And all the more difficult to deal with being on the other side of the world in a completely different culture as well. You really feel for them.

  13. Absolutely. I can’t put into words how impressed with and grateful to Jules’ father I have been for his approach to sharing with the media at the most anguished time for his family.
    Forza Jules.

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