Aide to Bush 41 speaks out after reports raise concern
Former president is still fighting a fever in ICU
Updated 11:42 am, Friday, December 28, 2012
George H.W. Bush's chief of staff on Thursday sought to tamp down any speculation the former president is near death, saying he would encourage family and friends to "put the harps back in the closet."
The 41st U.S. president has been in The Methodist Hospital in Houston for more than a month, and is now on a liquid diet in the intensive care unit with a fever described as "stubborn."
His chief of staff, Jean Becker, told family and friends in an email that the 88-year-old Bush "has every intention of staying put." She said the health care Bush is receiving is "unequaled."
Bush was admitted to Methodist with a cough on Nov. 23. On Wednesday, Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesman in Houston, said Bush had been in the intensive care unit since the weekend and remained in "guarded condition" with an elevated fever.
In her email Thursday, Becker wrote that McGrath's statement had prompted inquiries from "most of the civilized world."
"Is he sick? Yes. Does he plan to go anywhere soon? No," she wrote. "He has every intention of staying put. He would ask me to tell you to please, 'put the harps back in the closet.' "
Becker said the family was resisting releasing a statement out of respect for the former president and relatives. She said they prefer to deal with health issue in private. Bush "is so beloved we knew everyone would overreact," Becker wrote.
Her email continued, "Will he be in the hospital for a while? Yes. He is 88 years old, he had a terrible case of bronchitis which then triggered a series of complications."
Bush has been battling a persistent fever since last week. Although McGrath has said Bush and his family have been in a frustrating situation, he said Bush is alert and has been having a "running banter" with his nurses and is surrounded by family.
In February, it was reported that Bush had been diagnosed with lower body Parkinsonism, a condition that causes instability from the waist down. As a result, he mostly uses a wheelchair.
On Nov. 7, he was admitted to the hospital for a lingering bronchitis-like cough and was discharged Nov. 19. He was readmitted the day after Thanksgiving when the cough persisted.
Bush spent Christmas Day in the hospital with his wife, Barbara, and several family members who live in Houston. Two sons - former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - have visited him during his hospital stay and are planning to visit again soon.
Bush and his wife live in Houston during the winter and spend their summers in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bush was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924. His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was an investment banker who later became a Republican senator from Connecticut, serving from 1952 to 1963. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, came from a St. Louis investment banking family.
Bush enlisted in the Navy when he was 18 and was an aviator in World War II. At 24, he moved with his wife to Texas.
Thankful for support
The oldest living former president, Bush is also a former vice president, congressman and CIA director. He served as president from 1989 to 1993.
He drew public attention in retirement for skydiving on at least three of his birthdays since leaving the White House.
Becker ended her email to family and friends thanking them for their love and support.
"Is there anything you can do? Yes, of course. Keep him and the family in your prayers. I am thinking heaven has not seen such a barrage of prayer intentions since 'It's a Wonderful Life,' " she wrote.