Doctors: Student Freed by North Korea Has Severe Brain Damage | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Doctors: Student Freed by North Korea Has Severe Brain Damage

Otto Warmbier is in stable condition at the UC Medical Center, where he was taken immediately after his arrival in Ohio late Tuesday after more than 17 months in North Korean captivity

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    Fred Warmbier, the father of the American college student who spent the last TK months as a prisoner in North Korea, Otto Warmbier, spoke to the press on June 14. Otto is in stable condition.

    (Published Thursday, June 15, 2017)

    An American college student who emerged from prison in North Korea in a coma has severe brain damage, but doctors do not know what caused it, a medical team treating him in Ohio said Thursday.

    The doctors described Otto Warmbier, 22, as being in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness" but declined to discuss his outlook for improvement, saying such information would be kept confidential.

    "He has spontaneous eye opening and blinking," said Dr. Daniel Kanter, director of neurocritical care for the University of Cincinnati Health system. "However, he shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings. He has not spoken."

    Warmbier is in stable condition at the UC Medical Center, where he was taken immediately after his arrival in Ohio late Tuesday after more than 17 months in North Korean captivity. The reclusive country accused the University of Virginia student of anti-state activities.

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    American student Otto Warmbier has died at 22, days after his release from North Korea. Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea on June 13, and had been in a coma since March 2016. He was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts

    (Published Monday, June 19, 2017)

    His father, Fred Warmbier, met with reporters earlier in the day and said the family was proud of Otto, calling him "a fighter." He said the family is trying to keep him comfortable.

    The elder Warmbier said he did not believe North Korea's explanation that the coma resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill. U.S. doctors said they found no evidence of active botulism, a rare, serious illness caused by contaminated food or a dirty wound.

    He said there was no reason for North Korea to keep his son's condition secret for more than a year and to deny him top medical care. Warmbier's condition apparently deteriorated shortly after he was sentenced for subversion in March 2016.

    Kanter said the youth suffered "extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain." Doctors said his injuries are consistent with respiratory arrest cutting off oxygen to the brain, but they are not certain what caused it.

    Doctors said they also examined the rest of Warmbier's body and saw no evidence of fractures in his skull or elsewhere that might be evidence of severe beatings.

    The family feels "relief that Otto is now home in the arms of those who love him and anger that he was so brutally treated for so long," his father said at Wyoming High School, where Warmbier graduated in 2013 as class salutatorian and played soccer. Blue-and-white ribbons in the school's colors were tied around trees and utility poles all the way along the city's main road in a show of support.

    Tillerson Confirms North Korea Has Released American Student

    [NATL] Tillerson Confirms North Korea Has Released American Student

    American college student Otto Warmbier has been released from North Korea after being held captive there since January 2016, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed during a Senate hearing on the State Department budget.

    (Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017)

    To honor his son, Fred Warmbier wore the same jacket Otto wore when North Korea presented him before the media on Feb. 29, 2016, at an event where he tearfully confessed that he tried to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country. He was sentenced the following month to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

    Fred Warmbier said that he does not know why North Korea released his son but that the country does not do anything out of "the kindness of their hearts." He called on the country to release three other Americans currently held there.

    "There's no excuse for the way the North Koreans treated our son," he said.

    In its first official comment since Warmbier was returned home, North Korea said it released him for humanitarian reasons. The state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday did not comment on his medical condition.

    Warmbier's father also accused North Korea of luring Americans to the country with a Chinese tour company making the false promise they will never be detained.

    He said he received "a very nice phone call" Wednesday evening from President Donald Trump, who said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson worked hard to bring Otto home. Warmbier said the family was "extremely grateful for their efforts and concern."

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for North Korea's "financial isolation" at a U.N. Security Council meeting in April 2017. Tillerson also threatened sanctions on countries that continue to trade with North Korea, singling out China.

    (Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017)

    He said he and his wife grew frustrated with the lack of word about their son from former President Barack Obama's administration, which they said instructed them to keep a low profile to avoid upsetting the North Koreans.

    Asked whether he thought the previous administration could have done more, Fred Warmbier replied: "I think the results speak for themselves."

    Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called for an investigation into what happened to Warmbier.

    Richardson, a Democrat, credited the State Department with securing Warmbier's return without any preconditions but said a forceful response from the U.S. government would be required "if it's determined that there was a cover-up and Otto's condition was not disclosed and he didn't get proper treatment."

    Such detentions in the totalitarian nation have added to tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

    The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

    Dennis Rodman Makes Trip Back to North Korea

    [NATL] Dennis Rodman Makes Trip Back to North Korea

    Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, flew back to Pyongyang on June 13 for the first time in Donald Trump's presidency. He said he is "just trying to open a door" on a mission that he thinks his former "celebrity apprentice" boss would support.

    Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

    (Published Tuesday, June 13, 2017)

    Tillerson said Tuesday that the State Department was continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of the other imprisoned Americans.

    Associated Press Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.