Mandela’s health scares over the years

March 28, 2013 1:33 pm


Former South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in London on August 28, 2007/AFP
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in London on August 28, 2007/AFP
JOHANNESBURG, Mar 28 – Nelson Mandela’s health has prompted several scares over the years, with his readmission to hospital with a recurrent lung infection sparking calls for prayers for the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon.

South Africa’s first black president returned to hospital late Wednesday just three months after his longest stint in care since walking free from prison in 1990.

His main medical problems have been:

— Lungs

While serving his 27-year prison term, Mandela was diagnosed with early stage tuberculosis in 1988 after being admitted to hospital in Stellenbosch near Cape Town with a bad cough and weakness and having complained of dampness in his cell.

Two litres of fluid were drained from his chest and he spent six weeks recuperating in the hospital before being transferred to a private clinic near his mainland Cape Town prison where he was the facility’s first black patient.

“When the report came back from hospital they indicated that fortunately we sent the specimen before there were holes in the lung,” he said in 2004. “I underwent treatment and was completely cured after four months.”

In January 2011, Mandela set the nation on edge when he was hospitalised for two nights with an unnamed acute respiratory infection at the age of 92.

He was released in a stable condition for home-based care and intense medical monitoring.

In December, 2012 Mandela underwent nearly three weeks of treatment for a recurrent lung infection and surgery to extract gallstones.

He was admitted on December 8 and allowed to leave on December 26 for home-based care.

He also spent one night in hospital in early March 2013 for what was described as a scheduled medical checkup.

— Prostate

Mandela had surgery in 1985 for an enlarged prostate gland that had caused a urinary blockage.

In 2001, he received radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer and told reporters the following year that he had been given a clean bill of health against the disease.

— Stomach

In February 2012, he spent the night in hospital after a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.

He underwent a diagnostic laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery, in which doctors made small incisions in the abdominal area to probe it with a tiny camera.

— Eyes

Mandela’s tear ducts were damaged by years of being forced to smash limestone rocks in the quarry on Robben Island, due to the alkalinity of the stone, leaving them dry and prone to irritation.

He had cataract surgery aged 75 in 1994, a few months after being sworn into office as the nation’s first black president.

Press photographers were asked not to use camera flash when taking pictures of Mandela.


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