Home News Mandela’s health scares over the years

Mandela’s health scares over the years

Published on 10/03/2013

South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was discharged from hospital Sunday following a "successful medical examination".

He had been admitted Saturday for tests “to manage the existing conditions in line with his age,” the presidency said.

The 94-year-old, once a spry boxer who stayed fit during his 27 years in prison by doing calisthenics in his cell, has grown increasingly frail as a nonagenarian.

It is just over two months since he was last discharged from hospital in the capital Pretoria.

Then he was admitted on December 8 and underwent treatment for a recurrent lung infection and surgery to extract gallstones before he was allowed to leave on December 26 for home-based care.

Over the years the Nobel Peace Prize winner has had a number of health scares, including in February 2012 when he spent the night in hospital after a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.

Madiba, as he is affectionately called in South Africa, underwent a diagnostic laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery, in which doctors made small incisions in the abdominal area to probe it with a tiny camera.

The main medical problems of South Africa’s first black president have been:

— Respiratory

In January 2011, Mandela set the nation on edge when he was hospitalised for two nights with an unnamed acute respiratory infection, which the government initially described as “routine” testing.

He was released in a stable condition for home-based care and intense medical monitoring.

He has had longstanding lung problems. While serving his 27-year prison term, Mandela was diagnosed with early stage tuberculosis in 1988 after being admitted to hospital in Stellenbosch with a bad cough and weakness and having complained of dampness in his cell.

Two litres of fluid were drained from his chest and he spent six weeks recuperating in the hospital before being transferred to a private clinic near his mainland Cape Town prison where he was the facility’s first black patient.

“When the report came back from hospital they indicated that fortunately we sent the specimen before there were holes in the lung,” he said in 2004. “I underwent treatment and was completely cured after four months.”

— Prostate

Mandela had surgery in 1985 for an enlarged prostate gland that had caused a urinary blockage.

In 2001, he received radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer and told reporters the following year that he had been given a clean bill of health against the disease.

— Eyes

The tear glands of Mandela’s eyes were damaged by years of being forced to smash limestone rocks in the quarry on Robben Island, due to the alkalinity of the stone, leaving them dry and prone to irritation.

He had cataract surgery, aged 75 in 1994, a few months after being sworn into office as president.

Press photographers were asked not to use camera flash when taking pictures of Mandela.