Sarkozy improving after collapse

July 27, 2009 12:00 am

, PARIS, Jul 27 – French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "doing well" in hospital after collapsing during a weekend jog, his chief of staff said, as the ailing leader was urged to cut back on his gruelling schedule.

Sarkozy, 54, collapsed on Sunday while running at his weekend retreat near the Versailles palace west of Paris. He was taken to a military hospital in the capital by helicopter after the incident.

A presidential aide said the French leader — who took office in May 2007 — was suffering from a "minor" problem related to his vagus nerve, which helps the body regulate the heart rate.

Sarkozy is "doing well," his chief of staff Claude Gueant told AFP.

The French leader is scheduled to leave the Val de Grace hospital later on Monday.

"He’s fine. He’s hungry. He’s complaining. Everything’s going well," lawmaker and Sarkozy ally Patrick Balkany told RTL radio after talking to Gueant and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

"Carla reassured us straight away… it’s a passing thing. The president is going to have to take more care, work a little less hard and eat a little bit more," he added, blaming the incident on Sarkozy’s recent efforts to lose weight.

"Recently the president has looked very honed — he looks more like a Tour de France rider than a president," he joked.

A condition known as vasovagal syncope can reduce the heart rate and blood pressure — particularly if the victim is dehydrated. Patients can faint but normally make a complete recovery, medical experts said.

Sarkozy’s office said there were no plans to cancel his visit on Tuesday to the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy, and he was set to start his vacation at the end of the week.

"Clinical and complementary examinations testing neurological functions came back with normal results," including blood tests, an electroencephalogram (EEG) measuring electrical activity of the brain and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, the French presidency said in a statement.

It said it would give an update on his condition on Monday.

According to the Elysee, Sarkozy’s doctor was with the running party and was able to attend to him immediately.

"The malaise, which did not involve a loss of consciousness, followed 45 minutes of intense exercise," it said.

A witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP she saw a runner surrounded by bodyguards stumble and collapse in the grounds of La Lanterne.

Sarkozy, a fitness enthusiast, is often seen jogging or cycling with aides and bodyguards.

Just over three weeks ago, the Elysee released the findings of Sarkozy’s latest annual health check-up, describing the results of recent blood and heart tests as "normal." No further details were provided.

During his election campaign, Sarkozy pledged to publish regular health bulletins. So far the Elysee has published one full report, five days after the president was sworn in, saying he was fit to hold office.

Sarkozy was briefly hospitalised in October 2007 for minor throat surgery. The presidency never officially reported the operation, but it was confirmed by aides in January 2008.

His office said afterwards that the Elysee would publish health bulletins on a yearly basis, but none was released in 2008.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown wished Sarkozy a "speedy recovery," a British spokesman said.

Secrecy has long surrounded the health of French leaders, with former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand able to hide for 11 years the fact that he had prostate cancer, diagnosed soon after his election in 1981.

He died in 1996, less than eight months after leaving office.


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