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Special Event

Press Conference on Former President Gerald Ford's Health

Aired August 5, 2000 - 4:01 p.m. ET

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

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we want take to you now to Philadelphia to Hahnemann University Hospital, where doctors now are about to brief reporters on the condition of former President Gerald Ford. As you know, he's been hospitalized since Wednesday after suffering one and possibly two small strokes. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DR. RICHARD HAYDEN, HAHNEMANN HOSPITAL: This was confirmed on pathology as well as psychology done throughout the day today. The swelling in his tongue, as you probably have known, has been present now since Sunday. I saw him first on Thursday morning, and warned him that it might required a surgical intervention. It had increased and become quite problematic on Friday, with giving him difficulty swallowing, and speaking and a lot of pain.

And on Friday, I told him and his family that, indeed, surgery really would be the best thing to deal with this. We took him to the operating room this morning and incise and drained an abscess which was probably was the consequence of an exceedingly rare condition in the tongue. It something called actinomycosis. It's a bacillus that normally lives in our mouths, all of our mouths, around our teeth. To have an abscess or a localization of infection in the tongue from this particular bacillus area is exceeding rare. There are only a few cases reported in the literature.

Once it was incise and drained, the tongue has gone down to a very reasonable size. His comfort level is markedly improved, and he's able to swallow without difficulty. His speech has come back. And, of course, he and the family are much happier with the way his tongue is feeling at this time.

We expect the inflammation -- that's the infection that would surround an abscess pocket -- to settle down with antibiotic treatment. The treatment for this type of infection is pretty straightforward. But it has to take place over a very prolonged period of time, meaning many weeks, of simple antibiotic administration. And he's prepared for this. This can be done on an outpatient basis, when he goes home. We had elected to do the surgery once he was neurologically stable, and we will certainly be prepared to send him home when he's has anti-coagulated, or has blood thinners that are at an appropriate level, if his tongue continues to remain soft and pliable.

Thank you very much.

CALVIN MCDOWELL, FORD FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Doctor Schwartzman has a comment to make, and at which time, we will accept questions, if you have any, for the doctors or from me -- Doctor Schwartzman.

DR. ROBERT SCHWARTZMAN, HAHNEMANN HOSPITAL: Thank you.

I am very pleased to report the president came through the operation, the anesthesia, exceedingly well. He is now I think probably neurologically completely recovered from his small stroke, and as Doctor Hayden stated, we're in the process of changing his anti-coagulation, and as soon as that is accomplished, he should be ready to go home.

MCDOWELL: After the briefing this afternoon, we will release a statement from the hospital, which coincides with this briefing. In addition to the list of the physicians involved from the surgical team, the pathology team, the infectious disease team, and then there was a backup team, and we will -- it's being released simultaneous here with this briefing.

If any of you would like to stay afterwards, we will present that list to you here.

So, any questions?

QUESTION: What time did in? And how long a was he in OR?

HAYDEN: He went in the or about 8:00, and he was there for about an hour.

QUESTION: And when do you expect his release?

HAYDEN: It was general anesthesia, because his tongue was so tender and swollen. And I expect his release when his medical condition is completely stabilized with his blood thinners.

QUESTION: Are you still thinking, more or less, Wednesday?

HAYDEN: I don't think I've put a date on it.

MCDOWELL: Thank you.

Let me just comment on that. We're -- the doctors are in total control of this release. The president is being very cooperative with them. He knows the seriousness of everything he's been through here. And so when he is going home, he has already decided the doctors are in charge here.

So, any other questions?

QUESTION: Can they explain a little bit more about what this condition is? I know you said it's extremely rare, but how does it -- I mean, can you us colloquially how it's called?

MCDOWELL: Well, it's so rare that we're calling it "the president's syndrome." I'll let them elaborate on that. It's -- as it was explained to me, it's just virtually something unheard of, but I'll let them elaborate on that.

HAYDEN: Well it's a very good question. It is a rare condition. actinomycosis is a natural inhabitant of our mouths. It's a bacillus. Many years ago, it was thought to be a fungus. And in fact, infections usually occur in around the area of the angle of the jaw, and in some cases, or indeed most cases, in the old days, led to a drainage from the neck, and it had different names in those days.

For this particular bacillus to form an abscess, which is a pocket of infection, in the deep substance of the tongue, is that aspect that's exceptionally rare, and there aren't that many reported cases of such an abscess.

And as far as telling you how it gets there, there simply aren't enough case for us to draw conclusions in the medical literature. You can speculate, but there just aren't enough numbers.

NELSON: Some exceeding good news for former President Gerald Ford from Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, where the president entered on Friday, complaining of slurring speech and a swollen tongue.

Doctors says they excised and drained an exceeding rare abscess that jokingly referred to as "the president's syndrome." The condition, they say, are present most of us, but in his case, they turned into an abscess, and they have now through an operation, a one- hour operation that began at 8:00 this morning, brought the president's tongue down to a reasonable level. He's now able to swallow more easily, his speech is back, and it should settle down, they say, with prolonged antibiotic treatment. That means weeks of outpatient surgery. They expect to give him anti-coagulant before letting the former president return home. They would not say when that is.

And that's been an update from the hospital in Philadelphia on the condition of the former President Gerald Ford.

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