Da Ha'aretz del 19/12/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/659367.html

After stroke, PM tells Haaretz: I'm fine

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in stable condition last night after being rushed to the hospital in Jerusalem after apparently suffering a minor stroke and briefly losing consciousness.

However, doctors at the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem said that he appears not to have suffered any damage from the incident. "Unequivocally there is no damage," said Sharon's long-time personal physician, Dr. Boleslav Goldman. "He has had anti-coagulant treatment. He will need to be in the hospital for a few days."

Goldman said that he was initially told by members of Sharon's entourage that the prime minister was having trouble speaking, but that apparently only lasted a short time. "He has no motor problems and no other problems," Goldman said. "He is conscious, speaking freely, moving and joking. He had a minor incident ... I told him that I'm comfortable about his situation and am going home."

"It's true that the prime minister is 77 years old, it's true that he is under a lot of pressure, but he has no medical problems," Goldman continued. He added that Sharon undergoes regular medical check-ups just once a year.

His aides added that the prime minister told his doctors "I feel fine" and apologized for making them work so hard.

Close to midnight, Sharon repeated this message in a conversation with Haaretz. "I'm fine," he said. "Apparently I should have taken a few days off for vacation. But we're continuing to move forward" - a play on the name of his new party, Kadima, which means "forward."

Also, according to his aides, by about 11 P.M., the prime minister was already receiving a security briefing from his military secretary, Gadi Shamni.

About an hour after Sharon's arrival at Hadassah, officials there informed the waiting media that he was in stable condition and was undergoing tests. "Ariel Sharon was brought here at 8:05 P.M. He is fully conscious and is undergoing medical examinations," said Dr. Yuval Weiss, the hospital's deputy director, adding that the results of the tests would be made public later.

The hospital later said that doctors had diagnosed a minor stroke caused by a blockage of blood to the brain. Sharon was fully conscious throughout his time at the hospital and required no invasive treatment, the officials added.

According to one medic, Sharon briefly lost consciousness on the way to hospital. However, the prime minister's office denied this.

Following the tests, Sharon was transferred to the hospital's internal medicine ward. Doctors said that Sharon would be discharged "soon."

The stroke occurred at the end of a typically busy day for the prime minister, which included a 6 P.M. meeting with MK Shimon Peres, followed by a meeting with senior Finance Ministry officials and then a conversation with his personal secretary. After that, Sharon set off for Sycamore Ranch, his Negev home. He apparently felt a little ill beforehand, but began to feel much worse shortly after the trip began. He informed his son Gilad, with whom he was speaking on the telephone during the journey, of this, and Gilad immediately demanded that the prime minister's driver turn around and head for the hospital.

Gilad arrived at the hospital shortly after his father, as did Sharon's other son, MK Omri Sharon. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior Sharon aide Dov Weissglas also headed for the hospital quickly.

Olmert, who is also the finance minister, will take over as premier until Sharon recovers.

Despite the prime minister's apparently full recovery, his stroke has raised questions about the fate of the Kadima party, which he heads. Not only is the party largely considered a one-man organization, whose sole purpose is to be a vehicle for Sharon, but the party's bylaws explicitly define him as its chairman and give him sole authority to determine the party's Knesset slate - something that he has not yet done.

MKs who support Kadima refused to comment on this issue on the record, but off the record, one said: "It's impossible to ignore what happened. This was a very significant incident even assuming that Arik resumes functioning fully within a few days. It's clear that this will be an issue in the campaign."

The premier was deluged with good wishes for a rapid recovery from political friends and foes alike, including Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz, Shas chairman Eli Yishai and MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who was Sharon's chief rival when the prime minister still belonged to the Likud.

"I wish Sharon a full recovery and good health with all my heart," said Netanyahu. "And I'm certain that this expresses the feelings of all residents of Israel."

Some, however, added a rider to their good wishes. Moshe Feiglin, one of the candidates for the Likud leadership, said: "I wish Sharon health and long life, but outside the circle of influence and leadership."

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that while he wished Sharon a speedy recovery, the prime minister owed the nation a full disclosure about his state of health. He added that he hoped the incident would make voters question the wisdom of entrusting the nation's fate to a man of Sharon's age who is overweight, suffers from shortness of breath and has now also suffered a stroke.

And members of the outlawed Kahanist movement held a prayer service urging God to "relieve us of this punishment," referring to Sharon. However, they stressed that they were not necessarily wishing for his death, but rather for his departure from the political stage.

Sharon also received numerous good wishes from abroad, including from White House official Elliot Abrams, calling on behalf of U.S. President George Bush; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; European Union foreign policy czar Javier Solana; and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In contrast, dozens of armed men from the Popular Resistance Committees, a small militant group, fired their guns in the air and handed out sweets to motorists on the streets of Gaza City in celebration of the news that Sharon was ill.

News of Sharon's illness was also quickly picked up by all the major Arabic-language television stations.

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