Student freed by N. Korea is in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, doctors say

PHOTO: Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea, is taken to North Koreas top court in Pyongyang, in this photo released on March 16, 2016.PlayKyodo via Reuters
WATCH College student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea returns to the US in a coma

Otto Warmbier, the American student who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than 17 months and was returned home to Ohio this week in a coma, suffers from injuries related to cardiopulmonary arrest and is in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, doctors from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said this afternoon at a press conference.

Dr. Jordan Bonomo said Warmbier, 22, has "no fractures to the bone and has minor blemishes on his skin. We see no evidence of an acute or healing fracture."

None of the center's doctors have been in direct contact with medical officials in North Korea, Bonomo said.

Moreover, there was no evidence of botulism. North Korea claimed that Otto Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after his sentencing.

Scans show extensive loss in all regions of Warmbier's brain, the doctors said.

According to Dr. Daniel Kanter, Warmbier is breathing on his own, and his vital signs are normal.

"He shows no signs of understanding language ... He has not spoken. He has not engaged in any purposeful movements," Kanter said. "He has profound weakness of contraction in his arms and legs."

Otto Warmbier's father, Frank Warmbier, addressed the media earlier in the day, saying it was "bittersweet" to have his son home.

Frank Warmbier said he felt "anger that he was so brutally treated for so long," referring to his son, but was relieved he is "now home in the arms of those who love him."

Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was medically evacuated from North Korea and flown to Cincinnati late Tuesday. He was then transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

"I knelt down by his side, and I hugged him, and I told him I missed him and I was so glad that he made it home," Fred Warmbier said. "These things are tough to process, but he's with us, and we're trying to make him comfortable."

PHOTO: Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, speaks during a news conference, June 15, 2017, in Cincinnati. John Minchillo/AP Photo
Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, speaks during a news conference, June 15, 2017, in Cincinnati.

Fred Warmbier said he and his wife, Cindy Warmbier, worked tirelessly for the release of their son, who he said was detained at an airport in Pyongyang in January 2016. Otto Warmbier visited North Korea as part of a tour organized by a Chinese-based company.

After a one-hour trial in March 2016, Otto Warmbier was convicted of attempting to steal a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The North Korean regime deemed him a "war criminal" and "brutalized and terrorized" him during his detainment, his father said.

Fred Warmbier said his family doesn't believe North Korea's story.

"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," he added.

PHOTO: A North Korean soldier looks through the window of the building that sits on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Panmunjom, South Korea, that separates the two Koreas, July 21, 2010.
SLIDESHOW: The seesaw relationship between North Korea and the US

Fred Warmbier revealed that President Donald Trump phoned him Wednesday night to ask about his son and the rest of his family. Warmbier said Trump was "very candid" during the call and told him Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials worked hard to negotiate Otto Warmbier's release.

"It was a really nice conversation. It was kind," Fred Warmbier said. "To be honest, I had avoided conversations with him because to what end? I'm dealing with my son. But I did take the call, and it was gracious, and it was nice, and I thank him for that."

Asked by a reporter whether he believes President Barack Obama's administration could have done more to secure Otto Warmbier's release, Fred Warmbier replied simply, "I think the results speak for themselves."