WASHINGTON: Former president George H.W. Bush was admitted to an intensive care unit Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) suffering from pneumonia, highlighting concerns about the health of a political dynasty’s patriarch just as a new US leader prepares to enter office.
Bush, 92, was initially hospitalized Saturday for shortness of breath, but was moved to intensive care “to address an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia,” Bush’s office said in a statement.
“Doctors performed a procedure to protect and clear his airway that required sedation.”
Early Wednesday, Bush’s wife, the former first lady Barbara Bush, 91, was also admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital “as a precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing,” it said.
“President Bush is stable and resting comfortably in the ICU, where he will remain for observation,” Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said on Twitter.
President Barack Obama, who was holding his final news conference before Donald Trump is sworn in as his successor Friday, said he has been in touch with the Bush family and that he and First Lady Michelle Obama were sending their prayers.
“They have not only dedicated their lives to the country, but they have been a constant support and good counsel for Michelle and me,” Obama told reporters.
“They are as fine a couple as we know.”
Bush, who served as the nation’s 41st commander-in-chief from 1989 to 1993, is the oldest of the four living former US presidents and uses a wheelchair. He has seemed frail in recent public appearances.
Former president Bill Clinton tweeted: “41 and Barbara—thinking about you both and sending wishes for a speedy recovery. Love, 42.”
Trump also said he was thinking of the Bushes.
“Looking forward to a speedy recovery for George and Barbara Bush, both hospitalized,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you for your wonderful letter!”
On January 10, Bush wrote Trump a warm personal letter offering regrets that he and his wife would not be able to make it to Friday’s presidential inauguration in Washington.
“My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under. Same for Barbara,” he wrote.
“So I guess we’re stuck in Texas. But we will be with you and the country in spirit.”
In July 2015, Bush was treated in a Maine hospital after falling and breaking a bone in his neck. The previous December, he was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital for breathing problems.
He was treated at the same facility in November 2012 for bronchitis, spending nearly two months in the hospital.
Bush is father to former president George W. Bush (2001-2009) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who was a contender in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.