Bush resting after collapse at banquet 'Simple case of flu' alters schedule of Japanese visit

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

TOKYO -- President Bush canceled his morning schedule today to get more rest after becoming ill and collapsing the night before at a banquet at the Japanese prime minister's residence.

Presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that Mr. Bush would have his second-day summit meeting with Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa at 1:30 p.m. rather than in the morning.

The cancellation reversed Mr. 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."

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 flu to play tennis with Emperor Akihito 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.

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.

Mr. Bush fell ill on the 10th day of a 26,000-mile trip that included stops in summery Australia, tropical Singapore and wintry Korea before he came here to blue skies and mild January days.

He has maintained a punishing schedule throughout, with a single "open" evening on his agenda upon arriving here Tuesday.

He and Ambassador Michael H. Armacost had lost two sets of tennis yesterday afternoon to Emperor Akihito and Crown Prince Naruhito, and the president later told Dr. Lee that he felt ill.

The doctor looked him over and said he had the flu, but the president said he wanted to attend the dinner with Prime Minister Miyazawa, Mr. Fitzwater said.

At 8:14 p.m., about 40 minutes into the occasion, the president vomited a small amount, suddenly slumped partway out of his chair and was lowered the rest of the way to the floor by Secret Service men who quickly formed a circle and bent over to help him.

Dr. Lee, who was at the dinner, examined Mr. Bush as he lay on the floor.

After about half a minute, aides lifted the president far enough that his head appeared briefly above the tabletop before he was lowered to the floor again. His face was pale and distressed, and his hair was unkempt.

After about another minute, he got up smiling, reached to shake hands with Mr. Miyazawa, joked and put on a dark topcoat.

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