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Gerald Ford Admitted to Hospital for Minor Stroke

Aired August 2, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bernard Shaw with Judy Woodruff here in Philadelphia.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Where we are reporting on a news conference from the hospital where former President Gerald Ford has been since early this morning, Bernie, taken there -- he returned there after having gone last night, complaining of either an ear infection or a sinus infection. But today, it's been determined it was something more significant.

SHAW: Let's go now to Hahnemann Hospital and CNN's Pat Neal -- Pat.

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie and Judy, as you mentioned, former President Gerald Ford has suffered a stroke, a small stroke, possibly two, according to the doctors who have been treating him. We are here at Hahnemann University Hospital. We are waiting on a news conference from his doctor and his spokesperson, Calvin McDowell.

I will tell you, I've just been handed a press release from here, and it says that "After diagnostic tests were performed, it was determined by Schwartzmann that the president had suffered a small posterior circulation stroke. He currently is being treated with anti-clotting medication and he's resting comfortably."

Now, at the request of the Ford family, the hospital is releasing no further updates at this time.

SHAW: Pat, I...

NEAL: But...

SHAW: ... infer from the...

NEAL: Excuse me.

SHAW: I'm sorry. Did I interrupt your reporting? I didn't mean to. I'll be quiet until you finish.

NEAL: No, go ahead. Go ahead, Bernie.

SHAW: I infer that the family is concerned about the appearance of gravity and would like them to really be very circumspect about this and not create a sense of crisis?

NEAL: Well -- excuse me, absolutely. What has happened earlier today, the doctors have come out, they have told us what his situation was. They said that he had suffered one, possibly two, strokes. And here is -- here's Calvin McDowell, his spokesman.

CALVIN MCDOWELL, SPOKESMAN FOR GERALD FORD: I apologize my stumbling around. I have a fracture in my left foot, so actually I have not been doing anything else. Just this foot.

Now, we're going to break this into three phases with medical, security and staff, and Dr. Klasko is going to open it up and he's going to be introducing the three physicians who are attending to the president.

And so I'm going to bring them out right now and turn it over to the doctor and let him introduce them.

They will take a limited number of questions afterwards. I'm going to try to kind of control that, because we have a lot that we'd like to keep in a short period of time.

So, thank you.

DR. STEVEN KLASKO, HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I'm Dr. Steven Klasko, senior associate dean for clinical affairs at Hahnemann University School of Medicine. I'm responsible for clinical activities of the faculty practice group at the university.

Hahnemann University is a 618-bed teaching hospital, providing a full range of clinical service issues.

First, I want to thank all of you for your patience. We're all very aware of the national interest in President Ford and his condition. However, our first priority at Hahnemann is always the needs of our patients and the wishes of the family. While we recognize this makes it difficult for you in doing your job, in the case of a well-known individual, it's my role to first provide the care and respect the privacy of the family, and this we have done.

At this time, I'd like to introduce the physicians who are caring for President Ford: Dr. Robert Schwartzmann, chairman of neurology; Dr. Carol Thomas, director of the neurointensive care unit; Dr. Wayne Satz, chief of emergency medicine. We've prepared short CVs for you on all four of us.

When the president arrived shortly after 9:00 a.m., he was evaluated and later admitted by Dr. Schwartzmann. I'd like to turn over the podium fist to Dr. Schwartzmann, who will provide an update on President Ford's condition, after which there will be an opportunity for you to ask questions -- Dr. Schwartzmann?

DR. ROBERT SCHWARTZMANN, HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Thank you. I'm very happy to report that President Ford is improving. He's much better than he was this morning. This morning when I evaluated him, he had a small brain-stem stroke, had a little difficulty with his speech and a little difficulty with his balance. But at the present time, he's improving, and he's been undergoing testing throughout most of the day, which confirms his diagnosis.

KLASKO: Thank you. We have an opportunity for some questions.

QUESTION: Dr. Schwartzmann, you had indicated earlier that perhaps he had suffered two strokes, one yesterday and then one overnight after he left the hospital. Could you comment on that?

SCHWARTZMANN: Yes, I had different information. I had some information from Mrs. Ford, and it's possible. I didn't see him that night, but he apparently did have some troubles the night before, a little imbalance earlier.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) transient (OFF-MIKE) attack, a small stroke yesterday? Is that what you're saying?

SCHWARTZMANN: Yes, that's possible.

QUESTION: And why was it missed here at the hospital when he came in to be evaluated at 1:00 a.m.?

KLASKO: Let me -- let me turn it over to Dr. Satz, who's the chief of the emergency medicine, and he can give you an idea of what happened at the point that he came in last night.

DR. WAYNE SATZ, HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Yes, as the facts were related to me, he presented mostly with -- basically an acute exacerbation of what's been going on for a few days with pain in his right face. And as per the family wishes and his clinical picture at that time, he was treated appropriately and was discharged as per his wishes.


QUESTION: Did you (OFF-MIKE) last night?

SATZ: No, it was not me.

QUESTION: Why was he released last night?

SATZ: Again, as per the clinical picture and the family wishes, he was treated appropriately...

QUESTION: Did he demand that he be released last night? Did he say, "I'm not going to stay at the hospital"?

SATZ: This was...

KLASKO: Again, Dr. Satz was not the treating physician. Let me turn it over to Dr. Schwartzmann, who I think can address some of the issues as far as there being a different set of symptoms at the point that he came in this morning -- Dr. Schwartzmann.

SCHWARTZMANN: Yes. The president had -- was being treated by his family physician, who I spoke to earlier, and he had some pain in his tongue and he had some other symptoms that were suggestive of a possible infection in his tongue. And I had some information earlier this morning that I don't think the other physicians had, and that was provided to me by Mrs. Ford. And the situation when I saw it this morning was I'm sure a lot clearer than it was earlier, and the symptoms were different.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) slurred speech? Why wasn't that picked up?

KLASKO: Well, again, Dr. Schwartzmann was not there last night. The president was treated appropriately last night for the set of symptoms he had. As Dr. Schwartzmann said, very different set of symptoms this morning.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) last night?

QUESTION: TPA can dramatically reduce the stroke symptoms. It's a clock-buster drug. I notice he's on anti-coagulants now. Could he have had that opportunity to have that drug (OFF-MIKE) limit his chance of getting those drugs, because he lost that six-hour window overnight?

DR. CAROL THOMAS, HAHNEMANN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: When President Ford presented last night, even if he -- if there had been any signs of a stroke at that point, his symptoms were very minor and he would not have been a candidate for TPA.

QUESTION: So you're saying (OFF-MIKE) at the time?

THOMAS: No. I'm saying that if that was the case, it still would have been minor symptoms and he would not have been a candidate for TPA because the symptoms were very mild.

QUESTION: So you're going to have him now on (OFF-MIKE) and Hefrin (ph) together (OFF-MIKE)?

THOMAS: Basically to prevent a further event, yes.


QUESTION: What kind of problems did he have...


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) or a clot?

THOMAS: There's no evidence of bleeding on his MRI, and actually his MRI does not show any signs of a stroke, although it does show signs of diffuse vascular disease.

QUESTION: Was an MRI performed last night?

THOMAS: No. QUESTION: What is his prognosis, doctor?

QUESTION: Can you -- can you clearly state...

KLASKO: Wait. I'm sorry. Could we answer one question at a time? Could you answer the prognosis?

THOMAS: His prognosis is very good for recovery. In fact he's already showing signs of recovery from this morning until this evening.

QUESTION: Can he speak right now?


QUESTION: What is he saying? Could you tell us how he's feeling...

THOMAS: He's saying that he feels great and that he'd like to go home.

QUESTION: Can you (OFF-MIKE) exactly what a brain-stem stroke is?

QUESTION: How is Mrs. Ford doing?

THOMAS: She's doing -- she seems to be holding up very well.

KLASKO: Wait, wait, wait. Please (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what a brain-stem stroke is? What happens, how it affects the body, et cetera?

THOMAS: The brain stem is basically the area of the brain at the back of the brain that is the control center for the cerebral cortex, which is the front of the brain, as well as all of the vital information and functions of the body: breathing, swallowing, movement. So a very small problem, a very small clot can cause a large -- a large deficit or a stroke, stroke-type symptom.

So he seems to have had -- he seems to have had a very small problem that caused him to have problems with walking and with possibly the slurred speech as well. They all are improving.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) is he still having problems with walking, slurred speech, (OFF-MIKE)?

THOMAS: He's having some -- he continues to have some mild problems with both slurred speech as well as some difficulty with balance, but they are mild.

QUESTION: Can you tell us when you think the stroke occurred?

KLASKO: Again -- again, I'm not sure that's a question that can be answered at this point. Let me sort of answer your question in a way that I think will help clarify this. When President Ford came in after 9:00, the chart was obviously reviewed by Dr. Schwartzmann and Dr. Thomas. The care that was given at that time was appropriate for the symptoms that he had at that time.

To go through every piece of the medical record would be very unfair to President Ford and I frankly won't do that. But I can tell you that the care that he was given last night by the emergency room was appropriate and the care that he was given starting this morning by Dr. Schwartzmann and his team was appropriate.

QUESTION: How long will he be in the hospital, and will he be transferred to another hospital?

SCHWARTZMANN: He'll probably be in the hospital for five or six days until his anti-coagulation is perfect, and there is no plans to transfer him.

QUESTION: Do you know what led up to this stroke?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) recover his speech and balance?

SCHWARTZMANN: Yes, I think he will.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what led up the stroke? I mean, does have narrowing of the arteries, does he have cardiovascular disease? What's...

SCHWARTZMANN: His blood vessels look like that he has atherosclerosis.

QUESTION: And what does that mean for those of us who aren't doctors?

SCHWARTZMANN: Basically that he has some changes in his blood vessels that we all get as we get older. I'm getting it right now.

QUESTION: If he knew about this as of last night, question one and two is, why wasn't he given a CAT scan or an MRI last night?

KLASKO: Let me just repeat the statement. It's very unfair to the physicians involved or to President Ford and his family to dissect the medical record. The fact is that the care that was appropriate -- that was given last night was very appropriate for the symptoms he had last night, and the president, and his family and team are very satisfied with the care.

QUESTION: Will there be any lasting permanent damage?

SCHWARTZMANN: I think the president will totally recover from this. He has a little trouble with his speech, a little trouble with swallowing, but he should totally recover.

QUESTION: Is he going to have to have carotid artery surgery down the road?

SCHWARTZMANN: This is not the carotid arteries. This is (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The vessels in the back of the head, yes. This is a different artery.

QUESTION: Given his age and the symptoms he reported when he came here last night, would you suspect a stroke?

SCHWARTZMANN: You want to answer that?

SATZ: Last night, he presented with basically just pain that's been going on for at least two or three days that his private physician has been following him for, and all he sought at that time was pain relief. He was absolutely a normal, neurologic exam on arrival, and all he sought was pain relief for that night, because he was having difficulty sleeping.

QUESTION: What sort of neurological exam did you perform?

KLASKO: Again, again, he was not the physician. But as Dr. Satz said, different exam in the morning.

QUESTION: You said he was in pain last night during this presentation at the center where the video was being played.

KLASKO: I honestly can't answer that.

QUESTION: Did he describe problems going back that far?

KLASKO: Since none of us actually interviewed him originally...

QUESTION: Did Dr. Schwartzmann say he was feeling any symptoms during the convention presentation?

SCHWARTZMANN: He didn't tell me anything about any symptoms, neurological symptoms. And as was discussed, he had a lot of pain in his face, and he had some pain in his tongue.

SHAW: You have been following CNN's live coverage of this news conference here in Philadelphia at Hahnemann University Hospital. Doctors who have treated and looked after former President Gerald R. Ford indicating various things. Among them, which is very optimistic, the doctors saying I think he will totally recover from this. And when Dr. Carol Thomas was asked about President Ford , she quoted him as saying that, he says he's feeling great and that he'd like to go home. Also doctors indicating, Judy, it won't be for about five or six days until the anti-coagulation, as the doctor described it, is perfect.

WOODRUFF: That's right. They did say he's having some mild problems still with slurred speech and with balance. But as you just said, they expect, they expect a full recovery.

SHAW: I'm amazed. You heard the pressing reporters trying to get information, but these doctors shared a considerable body of medical information about this former president. The doctors indicating a couple of times they were concerned the family wanted its privacy, but to hear them just say here that an MRI showed that former President Ford has a -- has diffused vascular disease, I'm surprised that that kind of personal detail would come out. But you also heard the doctors respecting Betty Ford's desire and the family's desire saying that, look, you can talk about this, but other things don't talk about.

WOODRUFF: That's right, and just to quickly sum up, a minor stroke, although no stroke is completely minor, but a mild stroke in what's called the brain stem area, former President Gerald Ford, and they are expecting a full recovery.

SHAW: Of course we will track this story all day the rest of this week and days to come.

Coming up from Philadelphia, an abbreviated version of "INSIDE POLITICS."



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