Hitch your wagon to a star
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien appeared to be in good health during a meeting with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in Shawinigan, Que., on July 22. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
The Jewish General Hospital said Chrétien underwent surgery Friday to treat a subdural hematoma. That's a buildup of blood between the skull and the brain. It's normally considered an emergency medical condition.
"Currently, he is doing extremely well," said Dr. Jeff Golan, who performed the operation.
The problem came to doctors' attention on Thursday, when Chrétien's daughter called to say her father was having difficulty walking. She was advised to have her father brought in.
A brain scan on Friday revealed a three-centimetre-wide hematoma that was pushing about 1.5 centimetres into his brain. Emergency surgery was then performed Friday afternoon. The operation took two hours.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, doctors said they were shocked by the finding of such a large hematoma, since he didn't have any major symptoms.
Chrétien was "totally lucid, totally alert, and the only finding was a slight weakness of the left leg," said Dr. Marc Afilalo, head of emergency at the hospital.
Doctors said they didn't know what might have caused the hematoma, but noted that Chrétien had hit his head on the staircase of his basement in late June.
When asked about his prospects, Golan quickly pronounced them as "excellent," adding that Chrétien was telling him stories about his political life and making jokes.
However, Golan cautioned that Chrétien's "otherwise hectic lifestyle will have to wait for a few weeks."
The surgery Chrétien underwent is considered a major operation. The procedure involves opening the skull to a sufficient degree to allow access to the subdural cavity that's between the skull and the brain. The blood buildup is then drained out.
Chrétien, who is 76, is expected to be released from hospital in the next few days.
Chretien's longtime aide, Bruce Hartley, said people have been quick to send along their best wishes.
"They're just starting to flood in now - from MPs, former staffers, senators, friends, colleagues," he said.
Chrétien's family members are with him at the hospital.
"I spoke to his wife and some of his assistants. They were telling me everything was great," said Liberal MP Denis Coderre.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement sending his best wishes to the former prime minister.
"Mr. Chrétien, I am sure, will emerge as he always has from every challenge, by winning," he said.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he was "greatly concerned" by news of the surgery.
"It was just two weeks ago when he and I were in his hometown of Shawinigan and he was his usual self, with that spring in his stride of a man half his age and all the strength, vigor and sense of humour Canadians had come to see in him over the decade he served as one of our greatest prime ministers," he said in a statement.
This wasn't Chrétien's first major health problem. In 2007, he had quadruple bypass surgery at the Montreal Heart Institute. The surgery was deemed a success.
Chrétien, who led the Liberal Party to three majority governments during his 10 years as prime minister, stepped down from the top post in 2003.
Following his retirement from politics, Chrétien returned to law with the prominent firm Heenan Blaikie and has toured the lecture circuit.