(AP) Country music star Randy Travis was awake and making progress Monday as he recovers from surgery following a stroke, his doctors said.
In a news release and video from the Texas hospital where the 54-year-old singer is recovering, doctors also gave a more detailed explanation for the health troubles, saying they were caused by scarring on his heart.
Doctors said Travis remains in critical condition and on a ventilator, but he has stabilized and is breathing spontaneously. His breathing support is gradually being reduced. He was interacting with his family and friends and has begun the early stages of physical therapy.
Mary Davis, Travis' fiancee, thanked the singer's friends and fans for their prayers and support.
"I know that Randy feels each and every one of those," Davis said in the video. "He feels the hands of the doctors and the care of the nurses and the love of his fans. His friends and family have all been touched by that. He is responding well to voices and he sees and he understands. He's miles beyond where any of us thought he would be a few days ago."
Travis will stay at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano for two to three more weeks before being transferred somewhere else to undergo aggressive physical therapy. Doctors say it will take months to recover from the stroke, but scans shows the swelling in his brain caused by the event last Wednesday is subsiding following surgery to relieve pressure and he is making good progress in his recovery.
The Grammy Award-winning "Three Wooden Crosses" singer checked into the hospital on July 7 after a viral illness affected his heart. Doctors initially thought the virus caused congestive heart failure, but have since determined with a biopsy that Travis has scarring on his heart.
Dr. Michael Mack, a cardiac surgeon and medical director of cardiovascular disease at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, said the scarring has caused Travis' heart to become weak and require other devices to assist it to pump blood. He no longer needs a small pump inserted by catheter to help the heart control blood flow.
Mack said echocardiograms of Travis' heart to not indicate the scarring was caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
"Mr. Travis does have a family history of cardiomyopathy and it is more likely related to that," Mack said.
Travis has had troubles with alcohol recently and pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in January following an accident last August. He received two years of probation and a $2,000 fine. He was required to spend at least 30 days at an alcohol treatment facility and complete 100 hours of community service.
Before falling ill, he'd recently made several public appearances, including a spot on the Country Music Association Festival's nightly concert lineup and a poignant performance at George Jones' funeral.
Travis was admitted to Baylor Medical Center McKinney near his home in Tioga, about 60 miles north of Dallas, through the emergency room. He was transferred to The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano after doctors stabilized his heart with the pump. As his heart began to stabilize last Wednesday, doctors removed the pump and began to resuscitate Travis, Mack said. That was when he had the stroke.
The North Carolina-born Travis is a traditional country purist known for hits "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "I Told You So." His 1986 Warner Bros. debut album "Storms of Life" sold 3 million copies, and helped return country music to the sound of Hank Williams and George Jones. It also made Travis and his mellow baritone a star, leading the way for other artists from Alan Jackson to "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery.
AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed to this report.
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