Originally created 09/13/99

Thurmond returns to hospital for tests



U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, back in the hospital for medical tests and observation during the weekend, has made an estimated five previously unreported trips to the medical center on weekends in the past three months for a variety of ailments.

"Everybody is just a little puzzled about why he hasn't been feeling like himself lately," said the senator's press secretary, John DeCrosta, adding that he didn't know exactly when Mr. Thurmond started feeling fatigued.

Mr. Thurmond, 96, an Aiken Republican who is the oldest senator in U.S. history, was admitted Saturday night to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after complaining that he felt weak, Mr. DeCrosta said Sunday. Doctors expected the senator to be released this afternoon, he added.

Mr. Thurmond has not acted like himself since his surgery in August on an enlarged prostate, Mr. DeCrosta said.

The surgery originally was scheduled for November, when the Senate would not be in session, Mr. DeCrosta said.

Mr. Thurmond's last disclosed hospitalization was Aug. 22 at the medical center in Washington for the prostate surgery, two days after a brief stay at a hospital in Columbia, where he had collapsed at a University of South Carolina reception.

None of the senator's five other recent weekend trips to the medical center required an overnight stay or caused him to miss any work or Senate votes, Mr. DeCrosta said.

All of the visits were for specific ailments and were not connected with his recent trip to the Army hospital for surgery, his spokesman said.

Doctors are "double-checking to see if they've missed anything" in recent physicals and checkups the senator has undergone in the past few months, Mr. DeCrosta said.

Tests results should come in sometime next week, he said.

Mr. DeCrosta said he has not received preliminary notification from doctors about the cause of the latest ailment or whether Mr. Thurmond returned to work too soon after the August surgery.

"He's obviously felt well enough to get out of bed and go to work and accept all the many responsibilities of a U.S. senator," Mr. DeCrosta said.

Mr. Thurmond has not missed a vote or a scheduled meeting with colleagues or constituents since the legislative session began this month, his spokesman said.

Mr. Thurmond, the Senate's president pro tem, decided to get some additional rest and not to open the Senate's Friday morning session because there were no early votes, Mr. DeCrosta said.

Aides do not know if Mr. Thurmond will continue his normal schedule after leaving the hospital, Mr. DeCrosta said. After receiving the results from weekend tests, Mr. Thurmond will sit down with his doctors and receive their recommendation, he said.

"Doctors will also evaluate the various medications Thurmond is taking and may decide that changing prescriptions and dosages will assist him," Mr. DeCrosta said.

Mr. Thurmond recently described his health as "generally all right.

"I'm not planning to die soon," he said. "I expect to serve my term out."

A senator since 1954, Mr. Thurmond was most recently re-elected in 1996, to a term that ends in 2002.

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Mark Mathis at (706) 823-3332 or marmathis@yahoo.com.