HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush is still suffering from pneumonia, but he is well enough to leave the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital, doctors said Monday. His wife, Barbara, has been discharged from the same facility after completing treatment for bronchitis.
The 92-year-old former president was struggling to breathe when he was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital Jan. 14. Last week, he was breathing with the aid of a ventilator in the ICU, but doctors removed the breathing tube on Friday and by Monday were talking about the possibility that he could return home soon.
Dr. Amy Mynderse said at a news conference that the former president is “sitting up, watching TV and is waiting anxiously for his favorite oyster stew for lunch.”
“He’s on minimal oxygen, joking and laughing with the nurses and doctors,” she said.
Dr. Clint Doerr said Bush was still coughing “a fair amount” but that if he continues to improve, he could be discharged from the hospital by Friday or over the weekend.
“He’s excited to get home and he’s feeling well,” Mynderse said, describing Bush as “not your average 92-year-old.”
Mynderse said when she told Bush he was being released from intensive care, he asked her: “Can I just go home?”
Meanwhile, former first lady Barbara Bush, 91, who was admitted to the facility for treatment of bronchitis on Wednesday, is “back to her normal self,” Mynderse said. She was told she could return home Sunday, but she opted to stay one more night to fully recover and remain close to her husband, according to family spokesman Jim McGrath.
The couple’s 72-year marriage is the longest of any presidential couple in U.S. history, and the doctors said they have been a great support to each other.
“They truly do have just such an amazing love for each other and that really came across here,” Mynderse said, adding that Barbara Bush spent much her hospital stay by her husband’s side.
“Part of why she ended up, I think, in the hospital was because even though she was ill, she was trying to be by his bedside all the time.”
Doerr said: “They’re essentially therapy for each other. They help and are compliant in terms of when one of them doesn’t want to take a breathing treatment, the other says, ‘Get on that.’ It helps our cause.”
Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.
The former president and his wife appear to have touched the medical staff with their humility.
Mynderse told reporters that when she informed the former president she would be speaking at a news conference Monday, he replied: “About what?”
“I said, ‘About you!’ And he said, ‘People want to know about me?’ ” she said.
“They’re so humble. They truly are the most humble people,” Mynderse said.