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Doctors upgrade condition of beaten Giants fan

Doctors said Wednesday they have upgraded the condition of a San Francisco Giants fan who has recently shown increasing brain activity after a severe beating left him in a coma three months ago outside Dodger Stadium.

Bryan Stow is now breathing without a ventilator, has moved his left arm and been able to intermittently follow some basic commands as physicians wean him off heavy sedatives used to ward off seizures, said Dr. Geoff Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital.

Manley cautioned, however, that he could not predict whether Stow would recover further, and that dangers such as infection and a buildup of fluids around the brain remained.

"He is far from out of the woods," Manley said of the 42-year-old Santa Cruz paramedic.

Stow had been in critical condition since the March 31 attack after the season opener between the rival Giants and Dodgers. His condition has been upgraded to serious.

He was still without the left half of his skull, which doctors removed to reduce pressure from brain swelling, the same technique used to treat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head in January.

"It is a long road to recovery from where we are," Manley said.

Stow had been weaned off two of the five anti-seizure medications used to stop what doctors called nearly uncontrollable seizures shortly after the March 31 attack. Doctors were also lowering the doses of the remaining anti-seizure medications.

The drugs themselves can lower brain activity, which has made measuring the severity of the actual damage to Stow's brain difficult, Manley said.

Stow, a father of two, was moved last month from Los Angeles to San Francisco General Hospital, which has a top trauma center, to be closer to home.

Too little is known about traumatic brain injuries to predict how quickly or even whether Stow would recover further, Manley said. Doctors likely won't have a clear sense for months of where Stow's recovery will plateau, which could be anywhere from his current condition to a full return to work, he said.

"We are grateful for the public's continued concern and support," Stow's family said in a written statement. "We are encouraged by Bryan's improvement."

Giovanni Ramirez, 31, the main suspect in Stow's beating, was sent back to prison Monday for 10 months for a parole violation involving access to a gun. Police arrested him May 22 in connection with the attack on Stow and have held him since then on the parole issue. He has not been charged in the beating.

Ramirez's lawyers assert their client was nowhere near Dodger Stadium at the time of the attack. Attorney Jose Romero has said 11 family members and friends have provided an alibi for Ramirez, saying he was at an aunt's house.

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Marcus Wohlsen can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MarcusWohlsen

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