WYOMING, Ohio — Former North Korea detainee and U.S. college student Otto Warmbier is in stable condition but has suffered a “severe neurological injury,” University of Cincinnati Medical Center spokeswoman Kelly Martin said Thursday.
The Warmbier family doesn’t believe North Korea’s explanation that the 22-year-old fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after he was sentenced in March 2016, Warmbier’s father said on Thursday.
“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma — and we don’t — there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long,” Fred Warmbier said during a news conference at southern Ohio’s Wyoming High School, where Otto had graduated.
Doctors who are treating him say he has severe injury to all regions of his brain. They described him as in a state of “unresponsiveness wakefulness.”
They say he doesn’t show any consistent response to stimulation, shows no sign of understanding language, responding to commands or awareness of his environment.
Doctors with the University of Cincinnati Health system say Warmbier shows extensive loss of brain tissue, consistent with respiratory arrest, when the brain is cut off from oxygen but they aren’t sure why.
They said his prognosis remains confidential.
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against North Korea in March 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
That was the last time Warmbier was seen publicly — and about the same time he fell into a coma, his parents say they were told. A source close to the family said Warmbier contracted botulism last year.
Fred Warmbier wore the jacket Otto wore when he made a confession in front of the North Koreans.
“Otto is not in great shape right now,” Fred Warmbier told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in an interview Wednesday. “Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea.”
Fred Warmbier also said President Trump called him and Cindy last night to ask how Otto is doing. He said Trump was very kind and concerned about his son. He also said President Trump told him that Rex Tillerson and the State Department worked very hard in order to get his son released.