Sarkozy to leave hospital after jogging collapse

27th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Doctors say the French president who collapsed while jogging suffered from a minor nerve condition and is expected to leave the hospital on Monday.

Paris – President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to leave hospital on Monday after collapsing while jogging, as the French leader's aides scrambled to defend his image as a man of action.

The 54-year-old was whisked to hospital by helicopter Sunday after he fainted while jogging in the wooded parkland around the Versailles Palace near his weekend retreat outside Paris.

Sarkozy's supermodel wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy raced to his side on a police motorbike, a witness said, but doctors pronounced his illness a minor nervous complaint brought on by effort and predicted a full recovery.

He was expected to leave the Val de Grace military hospital later Monday.

Around 30 journalists were gathered at metal barricades outside the building, sharpshooters were posted on the roof and government cars with tinted windows were coming and going regularly.

In the meantime, Sarkozy's supporters were furiously working the media to protect his reputation as a dynamic leader.

"The news from the doctors is good. He'll be out today," promised Patrick Devedjian, the minister charged with overseeing Sarkozy's plan to revive the failing French economy, on RTL radio.

"It's not in his nature to hold himself back. He puts it like this: 'Sometimes people criticise me, saying I do too much. Me, I think I don't do enough'," he added.

"He takes a lot onto himself. He's hyperactive, everyone can see that."

Officials said Sunday that Sarkozy had suffered a vasvagal syncope – a nerve condition in which exhaustion and dehydration can lead to a loss of blood pressure – as he ran under a blazing summer sun.

The condition is not considered dangerous and most patients make a full recovery, and the president's entourage was keen to point out that he never lost consciousness despite 45 minutes of hard physical exercise.

"The doctors are talking about an illness brought on by excess effort," a source in Sarkozy's office told AFP.

But, while the president is likely to make a full physical recovery and quickly resume his gruelling schedule, there may be more lasting damage to his carefully crafted image as a young, thrusting leader.

Former president Francois Mitterrand left office aged 78 and concealed a case of prostrate cancer for more than a decade. Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac left office aged 76 and once spent a week in hospital.

By contrast to his often frail seeming forebears, Sarkozy has played up his vigour, and is regularly photographed jogging and cycling in his trademark NYPD T-shirt, sometimes with famous sportsmen.

While running for office he promised to make his annual health checkups public, although in fact he only did so once and was in 2008 caught out for having concealed minor throat surgery from the public.

So Sunday's incident in the woods may have political consequences.

Writing in the regional newspaper Charente Libre, Dominique Garraud said voters have no way of knowing if this was Sarkozy's first medical problem.

"No-one can know for sure, as long as transparency about the president's health remains a taboo," he argued.

Patrice Chabanet of the Journal de la Haute-Marne urged the president to ease up: "Nicolas Sarkozy can no longer allow himself to push his limits, and to expose himself to a new accident. Then the risk would become political."

And Jean-Claude Kiefer of Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace said the incident showed the risks of concentrating so much power in the hands of one leader.

"The jog of Sunday 26 July in Versailles park should not be without consequences," he urged, calling for France to re-examine its constitution.

Sarkozy's office promised an official update on the president's health when he leaves hospital later Monday.

AFP / Expatica

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