- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

LYNCHBURG, Va. — The Rev. Jerry Falwell was hospitalized with breathing difficulties and placed on a ventilator yesterday in a recurrence of a viral infection that left him in critical condition, hospital and church officials said.

“His cardiac status is stable, and there is no evidence of a heart attack,” said Tom Urtz, spokesman for Lynchburg General Hospital. “He is alert and responding to questions.”

Mr. Falwell, 71, was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital shortly before midnight Monday suffering from “respiratory arrest,” the hospital said. He was put on a ventilator and stabilized, but remained in critical condition, it added.

“Reverend Falwell is clinically stable, but is still critically ill,” Mr. Urtz said.

Ron Godwin, Mr. Falwell’s executive assistant, said his boss was “on a respirator, and he’s resting comfortably.”

“It’s a reoccurrence of the viral pneumonia,” he said.

Doctors say they should have a clearer prognosis this morning, and one is scheduled to brief reporters on Mr. Falwell’s condition at 11 a.m. from the hospital.

Mr. Falwell is the founder and chancellor of Liberty University and one of the nation’s leading religious conservatives. He was in the pulpit Easter Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church and appeared in good health, said the Rev. Dave Randlett, a senior associate pastor.

“He always looks up, so you wouldn’t know if he wasn’t” feeling well, Mr. Randlett said. “He was very optimistic.”

Mr. Godwin told the News & Advance of Lynchburg that Mr. Falwell was driven to the hospital Monday night by his wife, Marcel.

“He lost consciousness just as they got to the hospital,” Mr. Godwin said. “He slumped over as they were getting there.”

But Mr. Godwin said last night that when he visited Mr. Falwell, he was responsive.

“He smiled at me and shook my hand,” Mr. Godwin said. “It seems like he’s going to be able to shake this thing off.”

The hospitalization is Mr. Falwell’s second this year. He was treated in Lynchburg General Hospital for 13 days late last month and early this month while battling pneumonia.

An avid sports fan, Mr. Falwell was in the crowd on March 22 when Liberty University beat DePaul University 88-79 in the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s women’s tournament in College Park. The victory made the Lady Flames just the second No. 13 seed to win twice in the tournament.

He also made the trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday for the third round, where Liberty’s postseason run ended in a 90-48 loss to top-seeded Louisiana State.

In an interview with the Associated Press before making the trip, Mr. Falwell said he was feeling much better, but still recovering from his hospital stay.

Mr. Godwin said Mr. Falwell had “not been unreasonable” in his public schedule since his discharge. “He’s been coming in at 10:30 or 11 in the morning and working until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. This past weekend was a little busier.”

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