[PHOTO AT LEFT - First Gentleman Mike Arroyo leaves St. Luke’s.]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2008 (STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was discharged yesterday afternoon from St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City after undergoing treatment for diarrhea, a day after he got sick during a flight with President Arroyo to Peru to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Mr. Arroyo got clearance to go home from his doctors, following treatment of his diarrhea the other night, and especially since the abdominal pain was found not related to his existing heart problem.

He was confined to the SLMC after he arrived from a hospital in Osaka, Japan, where the plane carrying the presidential entourage was diverted from the flight to Peru via Los Angeles.

Doctors at the SLMC maintained that the “dissecting aneurysm that is in the thoraco-abdominal aorta” of Mr. Arroyo “has been stable since the operation in 2007.”

“I’m okay, I’m okay. Doctors have cleared me, I can go home already,” the First Gentleman said.

Mr. Arroyo, however, recalled the ordeal he went through last Friday on board the plane to Peru.

He described the “excruciating” abdominal pain he felt that prompted doctors on board to call for an emergency landing in Japan to get him to the hospital for appropriate medical attention.

“What I suffered there in the plane was excruciating abdominal pain and so the doctors decided to land the plane somewhere near, in Japan at that time and I’m glad that the episode is over,” Mr. Arroyo told reporters.

“I did not have a heart attack, thank God. But it was very painful, very severe abdominal pain. So it’s already led others to conclude that I had a heart attack,” he added.

Doctors said that Mr. Arroyo would have to continue his medications and undergo rehabilitation twice-a-week at SLMC in relation to the “high risk” heart operation he had in April last year.

Doctors also instructed Mr. Arroyo to remain on a diet and watch his weight, and rest.

The First Gentleman said the President already called him and he told her that he was already okay.

Mr. Arroyo said he was supposed to even stay three more days in Japan as doctors there disallowed him to immediately travel for at least another eight hours since he was admitted to a hospital in Osaka.

But Mr. Arroyo’s doctors, who urgently flew to Japan following reports of the presidential entourage’s emergency landing as he fell ill on board the plane for Peru, were able to take custody of him after a thorough evaluation that ruled out danger for the First Gentleman.

“The problem started when the plane took off from the Philippines for Peru. Everybody knows, as we mentioned that the First Gentleman suffered from severe abdominal pain that prompted them to land in Japan for evaluation of the abdominal pain because it was not an ordinary abdominal pain,” said Dr. Juliet Cervantes, the Arroyo family doctor.

“And because of the vacial history of the dissecting thoraco-abdominal aorta there is really a strict instruction both to him and to the medical staff that any chest pain or abdominal pain should be evaluated because there is always a possibility that it is coming from this existing problem in the large vessel, which is the aorta,” she also said.

Cervantes said Mr. Arroyo underwent tests including an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in Japan, which showed that there is still the dissecting aneurysm that is in the thoraco-abdominal aorta. However, this condition of Mr. Arroyo has already been known and addressed through the heart surgery in 2007. She noted that it has been stable since after the operation.

“With us going there to Japan and confirming the findings with our own assessment and (that) the problem is not related to this existing problem but could be related to what we call infectious diarrhea (because at that time it was already accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea),” she pointed out.

“And so once we assessed he is stable, it is safe enough and it’s stable enough to fly back to the Philippines we made the decision that he will go with us back to the Philippines for further observations but the President may proceed to Peru because there is nothing to worry about.”

“So this is an acute infectious diarrhea that it was probably related to the food but was resolved already,” she added.

Still, Cervantes stressed, they have given Mr. Arroyo “very strict instruction” that he should not ignore any abdominal pain or chest pain.

“Because of his problem in the aorta we have to evaluate him every now and then just to be sure that everything is under control and we are not going into a possibility of another problem in that blood vessel,” she noted.

The First Gentleman announced that he would be returning to the SLMC with Mrs. Arroyo on Friday for their usual executive check-up.

Cervantes said that the executive check-up of the First Couple might take two to three days.

Cervantes suspected that Mr. Arroyo probably had “something a little bit heavy to digest” before his flight, which eventually made him experience difficulty when the airplane reached a certain altitude.

“My assessment as a gastroenterologist was that it was an abdominal tolling, meaning there is spasm of abdomen, which is that kind that initially it is bearable until it builds up and then that was the pain that he experienced because of the problem probably with digestion when the altitude was high already,” Cervantes explained.

“So the moral lesson of the story is that before you fly, take something that is light and not hard to digest,” she also said.

With Mr. Arroyo out of the hospital, Mrs. Arroyo will not cut short her trip to Lima, Peru where she is attending the APEC Summit, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez said yesterday.

Golez said Mr. Arroyo appeared to be out of danger based on the pronouncements of his attending physicians at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC).

“The mere fact that he was allowed to fly (back to Manila) means the First Gentleman is stable. From a physician’s point of view, the condition is the First Gentleman is not critical and does not necessitate cutting short the trip of the President,” said Golez, who is also a medical doctor. – With Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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