By Marice Richter
DALLAS (Reuters) - U.S. country music singer Randy Travis' condition has stabilized after emergency surgery last week to relieve pressure on his brain following a stroke, but it may take months for the Grammy winner to recover, doctors said on Monday.
Travis, 54, who was admitted to a hospital north of Dallas on July 7 for a heart condition caused by a virus, suffered a stroke and underwent surgery on Wednesday.
"He is awake and alert and interacting with his family and friends and beginning to start doing some early physical therapy," Dr. Gary Erwin, a pulmonologist at the hospital, said in a video conference for the Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System, where Travis underwent surgery.
Travis' condition is critical but stable.
"We anticipate it will take months to recover from the stroke," Erwin added.
Travis suffers from a chronic condition known as idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a scarring of his heart muscle that causes his heart to be weak and makes it difficult for it to pump, said Dr. Michael Mack, a heart surgeon and the medical director of cardiovascular disease for Baylor Health Care System.
Travis suffered an acute viral illness over the past three weeks that appeared to have exacerbated the cardiomyopathy, Mack said, adding that Travis has a family history of cardiomyopathy.
A biopsy of his heart muscle showed scar tissue and images of his heart showed the condition does not have the appearance of being caused by drugs or alcohol, doctors said.
Travis, who lives about 60 miles north of Dallas in Tioga, Texas, initially was put on life support for a heart condition that was presumed to be cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, Mack said.
Doctors weaned him off life support for his heart, but he suffered a stroke Wednesday evening, Mack said.
Erwin said doctors hoped soon to remove Travis from a ventilator that is aiding his breathing. They are slowly decreasing his need for intravenous medications for his heart as well, he said.
Travis is expected to stay in the hospital for several more weeks and then will be transferred to a rehabilitation facility for "aggressive physical therapy," Erwin said.
Travis' fiancée, Mary Davis, said the singer feels the care of his doctors and nurses and the love of his fans and thanked everyone for their continued support.
"He is responding well to voices and he sees and he understands. He is miles beyond where any of us thought he would be a few days ago," Davis said in the video conference.
The singer-songwriter known for hits such as "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Three Wooden Crosses" has been in the spotlight in the past year due to legal troubles.
Travis was arrested after Texas State Troopers found him lying near his crashed car almost a year ago. He pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to serve 30 days at an in-patient alcohol treatment facility.
(Editing by David Bailey, Tim Gaynor and Paul Simao)