Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pope Rushed to Hospital With Relapse

Pope John Paul II was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance Thursday suffering fever and congestion from a relapse of the flu, the Vatican said. The 84-year-old pontiff had the same symptoms of the breathing crisis that sent him to Gemelli Polyclinic on Feb. 1, a Vatican official said on condition of anonymity. On Wednesday, the pope made his longest public appearance since being discharged from the clinic two weeks ago. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope was taken to the Rome hospital for "necessary specialized assistance and further tests." He was taken by ambulance at 10:45 a.m., officials said. Vatican officials played down the seriousness of the hospitalization, saying a patient of the pope's age is always at risk from the flu. The pope also has Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments. But aides said on condition of anonymity that the pope had a fever, congestion and had suffered a relapse of breathing problems. The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the pope arrived conscious at Gemelli in a private ambulance. He was taken inside in a stretcher, the report said, and quoted people who saw him enter the hospital as saying his face looked "quite relaxed." The news agency said he did not need a tube inserted into his windpipe to assist breathing.