Bush resumes meetings after fainting President gets rest after Toykyo collapse

January 09, 1992|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Tokyo Bureau of The Sun

TOKYO -- President Bush, recovering from an attack of stomach flu that caused him to become ill and collapse at a banquet last night, resumed talks here this afternoon with Japanese Prime Minster Kiichi Miyazawa.

The president had canceled his morning schedule today to get more rest after collapsing at the banquet at the Japanese prime minister's residence.

He declared himself "close to back to normal" but "not as strong as I'd like to be."

"I felt so embarrassed, I really did," Mr. Bush said as he recounted his illness in his first public appearance today.

He chatted briefly with reporters before meeting privately with the Japanese leader.

"Everybody gets the flu," Mr. Bush said to reporters. He said his condition was "not that serious" but added, "I don't think I'll go running this afternoon."

As the president was going into this afternoon's meeting with the prime minister, the White House announced that Mr. Bush was dropping plans for a speech tomorrow at the U.S. Embassy that had been billed as the big wrap-up address of his 12-day trip.

The cancellation of this morning's meeting with Prime Minister Miyazawa reversed presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater's insistence last night that the president would cancel only a morning breakfast with 18 U.S. corporate executives who joined his trip and would start the day with his scheduled 9:15 a.m. talk with Mr. Miyazawa.

Mr. Fitzwater was clearly determined to put the most upbeat face on the incident whose images had sent a fright around the United States and the world.

At a briefing this morning in Tokyo (last night Baltimore time), he described the illness as "a simple case of the flu," as he had last night after getting a report from the first examination by Dr. Burton J. Lee III, Mr. Bush's physician.

"He's a little weak from loss of fluids from last night and is resting for that," Mr. Fitzwater said. "He has a little bit of nausea. He's sipping some fluids."

Mr. Fitzwater said that Mr. Bush got a good night's sleep after the collapse and was "up and about" and making telephone calls, including one to Vice President Dan Quayle, who was campaigning in New Hampshire for their re-election.

Mr. Fitzwater acknowledged that the president had taken "no solid foods" since he vomited and slumped out of his chair 40 minutes into a dinner with Mr. Miyazawa as host. He said that Mr. Bush had no fever and that a morning examination by Dr. Lee found "all his vital signs normal."

Mr. Fitzwater said that Mr. Bush had received an electrocardiogram test to check his heart. Mrs. Fitzwater said te results were "totally normal." Mr. Bush said all his tests -- including the EKG -- "were absolutely perfect."

The illness "will have absolutely no effect" on Mr. Bush's campaign plans for the 1992 presidential election, Mr. Fitzwater said in answer to a reporter's question.

"He's a vigorous, healthy man, and this is part of his normal schedule," Mr. Fitzwater said when pressed on whether it was wise for a 67-year-old president who had stomach flu to play tennis with Emperor Akihito and Crown Prince Naruhito yesterday afternoon.

"Doctors are certain there is no other illness or problems related to this," Mr. Fitzwater said as reporters began to press him on whether the illness might be connected with a previous thyroid condition or to Halcion, a popular sleeping pill Mr. Bush had used to combat jet lag.

"The president is a human being, and he gets sick."

Dropping the morning schedule was "a collective decision by the staff," Mr. Fitzwater said.

Besides the meeting with the corporate CEOs, Mr. Bush canceled plans to attend lunch with a high-powered Japanese welcoming committee and to visit a Kodak research facility at the nearby port city of Yokohama.

The president still plans to attend a joint news conference with Mr. Miyazawa later in the afternoon and a black-tie dinner in his honor at the Imperial Palace tonight, Mr. Fitzwater said.

Mr. Bush slept the night at his suite in the state guest house at Akasaka Palace last night. He was never taken to a hospital, although the Air Force ambulance that accompanies him on foreign trips was brought around.

Mr. Fitzwater said that Dr. Lee had diagnosed the illness as "gastroenteritis," a term that medically means inflammation of the digestive organs and is often used for flu.

The illness was "common flu," Mr. Fitzwater said at an earlier briefing after the president's collapse. He said the condition was not in any way related to heart fibrillations Mr. Bush experienced at Camp David last May 4.

The May 4 incident led to treatment of the president for a thyroid condition.

Mr. Fitzwater said treatment for the thyroid condition ended "months ago."

After examining the president at the state guest house, Dr. Lee prescribed Tigan, a medication for nausea, and sent Mr. Bush to bed, Mr. Fitzwater said.

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