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Special Event

Former President Bush Comments on His Health After Hospital Stay

Aired February 25, 2000 - 11:20 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL TUCKER, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news. And for that and the details, let's get to Daryn down in Atlanta -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're interrupting so that we can go live down to Naples, Florida. That's where former President George Bush has a few words to let everyone know he says that he's feeling just fine after what he calls a fainting spell last night. He was at a business event. Let's listen in:

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: ... Dr. Mullard (ph), who's with me here somewhere.

Doctor?

You may need a ruling out of this guy. He was here. Dr. (inaudible). These two guys. He was in the emergency room, proclaimed immediately it was not an emergency. One of the great doctors for announcing that.

This guy, one of the great heart specialists, he took -- looked all the signs, because I had a history of atrial fibrillation. And indeed I was fibrillating a little bit. And next thing I knew I felt like a million bucks, going home. Barbara says I'm not to go out tonight like I'd planned to do.

Getting a lot of sympathy from my daughter. Talked to both the governor of Texas and the governor of Florida. And so a little notoriety about all this. But honestly, honestly, I really feel good. And I think either doctor would answer questions.

But this hospital was wonderful. I wrote down the name of the some of the nurses, of course. In the emergency room was Vicky (ph), wasn't she the one. Little -- beautiful little, wonderful professional that had been there forever. And she took over everything, including the embarrassing moment when my shorts had to be changed. And anyway, she was -- that was a wonderful moment.

(LAUGHTER)

And up in the -- up in the room I stayed in overnight, I think her name was Emily (ph). And then there's Sharlene (ph), who starts with an "S" on the room I just came out of. And they were all fantastic, the whole hospital. And I want to thank them very much, because we imposed on them and threw a little lack of order into what's an orderly life here.

And now I'd be glad to take a few questions or I'm sure the doctors would.

QUESTION: Mr. President, any plans to slow down a bit, as some people seem to think would be a good idea?

BUSH: I couldn't do that. And, you know, I've gotten a little tired. The day before yesterday I went to Virginia, Houston, Roanoke, Newport News, Houston. And yesterday I flew over from Houston to here and was going to go back at night, and I've been on that kind of schedule -- I'm going to Asia next week and I have every intention of going.

But, no, I'm 75, but I feel 35.

QUESTION: What about the retirement?

BUSH: Sir?

QUESTION: What about retirement?

BUSH: Well, it's wonderful. Barbara and I -- I'll tell you this: We have never been happier in our lives and a lot of it is because I'm not in politics. And maybe the reason I got a little tired or ended up here is I get nervous about politics now. When it's somebody else, you know, when it's your son, not yourself, that they're after, why it's a little more difficult.

But, no, I have no political ambition. I don't do op-ed pages, I don't go to Washington or try to give it a wide berth, as I'm sure some of you all have noticed.

And we're very, very happy. We're very happy in our private lives.

QUESTION: Mr. President, we heard that you were a little bit feisty about not really wanting to spend the night here, you really wanted to go home last night.

BUSH: "Feisty" is not the word I would have used. "Irritated," perhaps.

(LAUGHTER)

No, these guys know their business and they knew what I should do. They didn't want to take any chances until they gave a thorough analysis of everything. And they spoiled me to death with all the tests, and so I think -- I don't want to quote the heart specialist -- but I think he feels very comfortable about what they've concluded. Now I'll go back to Houston and our doctor there will take over and just to be sure we're not missing something.

BUSH: But, honestly, I really feel good.

You know, I've had a history of this. It has nothing to do with when I threw up on the prime minister of Japan.

(LAUGHTER)

I knew that's what you guy were thinking about. No. That was food poisoning.

It has something related to the fact that I had atrial fibrillation when I was jogging up at Camp David and I got it. A lot of people pronounced me dead and buried there. But I haven't had -- been out of sinus rhythm, as they call it, since -- I don't think. I don't know if you've seen the records -- since 1991 or '2. So this a little abnormal thing here. But I got tired and maybe overdid it a little.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) were cracking all kinds of jokes.

BUSH: Not all kinds. I was trying to -- one or two -- one or two.

QUESTION: One of your associates suggested that you're tired of seeing the other George Bush name in the headlines and that you stepped in here.

BUSH: Well, anything to get the -- no, no. I'm very proud to see him in the headlines. And I just didn't want this to anyway, even momentarily, deter from what he was doing.

It's not -- it's not that big a deal. But, no. I'm proud of him and I'm very, very proud of our governor of Florida, too.

To whom...

QUESTION: Mr. President?

BUSH: ... whom I woke up last night. And he did not show the proper lack of respect or concern for his father.

(LAUGHTER)

But...

QUESTION: Mr. President, how do you think your son's going to make out in New York City?

BUSH: I don't know. As I say, I'm out of politics. I know what I hope. And I -- you know, I think he'll win.

But I don't really know that. I don't follow the precincts and all of that, he's got a wonderful team, great support there, but we'll have to wait and see.

QUESTION: What are you doing, Mr. President? What is your plan today?

BUSH: I'm going to fly back to Houston, Texas, right now. Dr. Mullard (ph), who has many more better things to do, just insisted flying over with just as a precaution. He'll come back and I'll be met there by our doctor, and then I'll guess we'll figure out -- they may want to do some tests there. Do you know Dr. Vincent (ph)? If the Methodist Hospital -- just to follow up, he can tell about that. Then I'll go home, be home with Barbara tonight.

QUESTION: Mr. President, can you explain what you were feeling yesterday as this was happening, physically what you were feeling?

BUSH: Yes. Well, I got a little tired. I was giving a speech over here to a wonderful group and then I had a lot of photos afterward, and I think what I did was get tired, and I don't know whether that would be because of atrial fibrillation or whether atrial fibrillation became because I was tired. But I broke out in a sweat and I just felt -- I didn't really think there was anything wrong except fatigue, and then I went out -- I tell you who was wonderful, was the medical unit out at the Air Force, the county -- what do they call them?

(UNKNOWN): EMS.

BUSH: County emergency guys and there're about five of them, they all look like they're from out of -- from outer space, all dressed up in dark blue uniforms and they were wonderful. They took tests and they immediately passed along their information to the experts, the doctors here, and they determined -- the doctors determined that we'd better spend the night here, and just double check, just as a matter of safety.

But...

QUESTION: A word for all those people at home that were really worried about you. We had one woman walk into the hospital and said, Now you guys go easy on him, he's my hero.

BUSH: Well, she's entitled to her opinion. I mean, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

People are awful nice to us now, and it's not just here in the hospital, not just the volunteers -- wonderful volunteer corps, incidentally. I still believe this thousand points of light concept. And doctors were tell me about, I think, what'd they say, more volunteers at this hospitals than almost any.

And so, no, people are swell. And same at home. Even out on the campaign trail it's -- we're accorded a certain friendship and respect even from those that don't agree with us politically. It's a lot different than when you're in the crossfire yourself.

QUESTION: How you found out if these guys voted for you, the two doctors? BUSH: I don't -- I haven't found out. I couldn't less of a darn. But I know I was in the hands of two outstanding professionals, one of whom is in this emergency room and knows exactly how to cope with all kinds, not just heart, and then I knew -- understand of Dr. Buchek's (ph) reputation as a leading heart -- one of the leading heart doctors in the country, and certainly here in Florida. So I was very lucky to get into that kind -- hands of that kind of expertise.

QUESTION: Mr. President, were you worried at some point -- when this happened, did you have a feeling that something is not right?

QUESTION: Did you have a sense when you thought, this is not good?

BUSH: Might be serious? Well, I had a sense that I'm too tired and I couldn't stay up there shaking hands and doing the things I wanted to do for our hosts. But, no, I never had a sense that there was something serious.

And I didn't -- when I got the original atrial fibrillation I was out running, and I said to the Secret Service guys, God, I'm tired, and so I stopped and then I started again. One hundred yards -- and I used to run a lot in those days, and so we went into the medical unit and the guy said: Your heart's in sinus rhythm here, your heart fibrillated. So we flew down to Bethesda.

So it didn't have -- it had a fatigue, and I'm sweating and all that, but I didn't have the vaguest idea, nor -- it didn't turn out to be true that it was something serious.

QUESTION: What about last night, Mr. President? In that moment when you knew, you said you felt light-headed.

BUSH: No, not light-headed. I just felt I was sweating like a hog and it was terrible, and my shirt was all wet and I said this is unusual. In fact, in the receiving line -- a wonderful group of people and I was shaking hands and I said, "I've got to sit down," because I was afraid if I didn't that I might feint. But I wasn't, you know, what you'd call light-headed. If anything, I just had the warning that enough, enough. And I was perspiring heavily.

But they would tell you that there's nothing abnormal about all of that.

Now listen, I've got to get home to Barbara Bush or I'll be in serious jeopardy. We'll take three more questions. Anybody got one?

QUESTION: What doctor you taking on your Asian trip? You mentioned you were going to Asia next week. Are you taking a doctor with you?

BUSH: I think are -- well, I don't want to commit him, but I think some medical person, either a nurse or doctor, will be going, but just as a precautionary, because I -- and I wouldn't be going and if the experts, the doctors, fear and in Houston didn't feel that it was totally safe -- just think you're over it all the time. I remember poor Bill Bradley had an atrial fibrillation and they had the guy in the coffin and it's not true. Look at me and look at him.

So I don't mean to equate him with my little experience here, but it's not that serious a thing.

QUESTION: Mr. President, how do you feel...

BUSH: Second to last.

QUESTION: How do you feel right now?

BUSH: Great. Do you want to go out and play a little doubles or...

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Despite all that, do you start to get a feeling of your own mortality?

BUSH: Oh, I made the mistake of reading "Tuesdays with Morrie."

(LAUGHTER)

Have you read that book? Best selling book, and it's all about how this guy coped with the end of his life, and I had no identity with that whatsoever. Marvelous book, incidentally.

When you get to be 75 -- not related to this incident -- you do think about that, but not with fear.

If you have faith, you don't think of it with fear.

But I've got a lot of living to do. I got a lot of places to go, planes to jump out of, a lot of things that I want to do. And I'm going to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I'm going to jump out of an airplane. You can write it down. On my 80th birthday, June 12th, 50 years from -- more than that, from -- I was born in '24, so whatever that is, 2000 and whatever, 2004, I'm going to jump out of another plane.

And I'm going to do it to show people that old guys can still do stuff. And they can. And you just set your goals, you just pace yourself, you stay fit, and you can do anything you want to do. With those words of wisdom, I'm out here.

And thank you all, very much.

(APPLAUSE)

KAGAN: We've been listening to comments from former President George Bush who had a little bit of a scare last night, a little bit of atrial fibrillation. It put him in a hospital in Naples, Florida for the night, but as he came out today, you could see he was in fine humor, and his doctors saying that he's OK to go home. The former president is 75 years old, keeps a very busy schedule, says he has no intention of slowing down, despite this little scare. He goes back to Houston today. He says he still intends to go on to Asia next week and he said, write this down: On his 80th birthday five years from now, he still intends to jump out of an airplane. But tonight, Barbara Bush says he's not going out. We know who's in charge there.

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