- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Former President Gerald R. Ford suffered two "small brain-stem strokes" and was hospitalized under intensive care yesterday, just hours after watching a moving tribute to him at the Republican National Convention.
"Take care of him," his wife, Betty, said in asking his doctors to save her husband of 52 years.
Doctors predicted the 38th president would make a full recovery but said there are no guarantees. Another doctor said the risk of death or paralysis from a stroke increases with age.
"A very small clot can cause a large stroke," said Dr. Carol Thomas of Hahnemann University Hospital a leading medical center routinely relied upon by the White House for presidential visits. "He's saying he feels great and would like to go home."
Mr. Ford, 87, must remain at Hahnemann University Hospital for at least five to six days, receiving anti-coagulant drugs to dissolve clots that cut off blood supply to the area of the brain that controls the cerebral cortex and affects breathing, swallowing and movement.
The GOP's new vice presidential nominee, Richard B. Cheney, opened his acceptance speech last night with a word for the man who made him the youngest White House chief of staff in history.
"I wouldn't be here tonight if it wasn't for him and the trust and confidence he placed in me 25 years ago," Mr. Cheney said, wishing his old boss a quick and speedy recovery.
When Secret Service agents took Mr. Ford to the emergency room at 1 a.m. yesterday, doctors diagnosed his problem as an ear infection and a sinus infection and sent him back to his hotel, where he and his wife prepared to depart for his summer home in Palm Desert, Calif.
But at 9 that morning, the ex-president walked back into the hospital, briefcase in hand, for a second opinion. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed signs of diffuse vascular disease that comes with age, but found no actual blockage large enough to see, Dr. Thomas said.
"I think he'll do very well," said Dr. Robert Schwartzman, Hahnemann's chief of neurology. "He had a little bit of trouble with his balance. His thinking is perfect."
"I couldn't be healthier," Mr. Ford had said Tuesday during an interview with CNN's Larry King, recorded Tuesday morning and played that night.
Slurring was obvious in that interview. Earlier the same day, he seemed confused or had trouble hearing a C-SPAN interviewer, answering a question about Iran by discussing onions and replying to the topic of racial diversity by discussing the diverse economy in Michigan.
A flood of wishes for his recovery came in and not just from Republicans.
President Clinton called Mrs. Ford and expressed his concern.
"We hope for his speedy and full recovery and we join the American people in holding President Ford and his family in our thoughts and prayers," said Vice President Al Gore.
Nominee-in-waiting George W. Bush also called to send "prayers and love" to the Ford family.
"America loves Gerald and Betty Ford for their integrity, wisdom and compassion," the Texas governor said.
His father, former President George Bush, said, "Once again, we were reminded of his decency and all that he did at a crucial time in our nation's history."
Dr. Schwartzman and a small posse of hospital officials sought to play down the eight-hour delay in treating Mr. Ford, saying he and his wife gave more clues when they returned in the morning.
"I had some information this morning that no other physicians had. It was clearer than it was earlier," Dr. Schwartzman said.
"The symptoms were different," he said, adding the symptoms resemble those of an inner-ear infection, particularly if fluid is in the ear. His problems included dizziness and arm pain, slurring and confusion.
A specialist in internal medicine explained that strokes can occur when a vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, the type that killed Sen. Paul Coverdell last month, or by cutting blood flow because of a blockage in the blood vessel. Death, paralysis, and loss of movement or speech are common results.
The doctor said results of the drug treatment should be known within 72 hours, allowing a better assessment of likely neurologic deficits that Mr. Ford will experience.
"If they give him the clot busters, it will thin out his blood and they'll keep an eye on him," said the doctor.
At a late afternoon press conference several Hahnemann physicians used similar terms to defend the hospital's judgment.
"According to family wishes and the clinical picture, he was treated appropriately," said Dr. Wayne Satz, chief of emergency medicine at the 618-bed teaching hospital.
"The president was treated appropriately last night for the symptoms he had," said Dr. Steven Klasko, speaking for the hospital administration.
Dr. Schwartzman described Mr. Ford's condition as stable and alert, but another physician familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified questioned the need for intensive care simply to monitor the aftermath of a minor stroke. Hospitals often categorize the condition of intensive-care patients as "critical."
American Heart Association President George Hademenos said such a small stroke often is a precursor to a more serious stroke, sometimes within a day or two.
Dr. Thomas Brott, president of the National Stroke Association, said rehabilitation would begin very quickly and said "up to 50 percent of the patients have complete recoveries, and those are after severe strokes."
During Tuesday night's convention session, Mr. and Mrs. Ford sat with George and Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan during six-minute video tributes to the three presidencies.
The official party video described the former congressman who became president when Richard Nixon resigned as "the unassuming man from Michigan who shouldered our nation's burden and put America back together in his quiet, steady way."
Mr. Ford, the nation's only chief executive never to have been elected president or vice president, took the helm when Mr. Nixon quit on Aug. 9, 1974. Analysts blamed his pardon of Mr. Nixon for Mr. Ford's 1976 failure to win election in his own right.
He was twice the target of assassins during his 2 and 1/2 years in the White House, is something of a fitness addict who plays golf often, swims twice a day and exercises regularly.
Many critics pointed out that his highest elected office was from one congressional district, but neglected the power and status derived in his House leadership role.

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