A statement was just put out by the Bush family spokesperson, Jim McGrath, indicating former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized yesterday "after contracting an infection that spread to his blood." It further maintains the treatment is working and he is recovering. Having recently attended the funeral of his wife, First Lady Barbara Bush, the news is particularly upsetting.
You may recall that they were simultaneously admitted to the hospital for respiratory conditions last year. That type of scenario is not uncommon as infections like that tend to spread throughout households, with the extent of disease and clinical status directly dependent on the individual. At the time, President Bush required intensive care unit services and Mrs. Bush improved expeditiously (see my article, President George H. W. Bush In ICU, Wife Barbara In Same Hospital).
As I recently wrote shortly before her passing (see here), Mrs. Bush publicly disclosed her decision to shift toward "comfort care" after a series of recent hospital stays and failing health. As we age, our resilience and immunity tend to get diminished. Insults like recurring hospital stays can impose great stress no matter our age, but especially if we are older and have significant underlying medical conditions. This, too, weakens our resistance. Making the decision "not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care" is a very personal one. It is ideally made in consultation with treating physicians and discussions with family. It was reported she had an especially rough year given the challenges of her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF). Those conditions can make a person more susceptible to infection as well.
As per President Bush, it is not surprising that recent events could take a physical and psychological toll. The loss of a loved one, especially after 73 years together, can be quite traumatic - watching them endure frequent hospital stays and supporting them through their remaining days as they battle chronic illness can be all-consuming, replete with lost sleep, wide arrays of emotion and so on. In addition, he has his own health difficulties, among them being confined to a wheelchair. When an individual has impaired mobility, they are at greater risk for infections like pneumonia or blood clots. Our ability to walk around is quite protective and, in part, responsible for our improved resilience.
As we recently witnessed with the tragic deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, it is not a rarity to experience simultaneous or staggered illness with a loved one. In these events, there was a presumed element of broken heart that contributed to Reynolds surprising passing. To read about Broken Heart Syndrome, click here. It is a very real thing.
Hopefully, there will be good news in this scenario given the statement conveys former President Bush is recovering and responding to therapy. Though he is in the middle of one of life's greatest stressors, he has shown a fortitude and resolve in the not-so-distant past when he was admitted to and released from intensive care. As the account continues to unfold, we hope the news will continue to report a speedy return to good health for our former President.