Pope Breathing Well After Tracheotomy

Won’t Be Able to Speak for Several Days

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II is recovering well from his tracheotomy, breathing on his own and eating normally, although he will not be able to speak for several days, the Vatican said.

Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said at midday today that “the Holy Father spent a night of tranquil rest,” thanks to the relief he has felt after his operation, the surgical formation of an opening into the trachea through the neck to allow the passage of air.

“Upon the advice of his doctors, the Pope must not speak for several days so as to favor the recovery of the functions of the larynx,” added the spokesman.

“The post-operative situation continues regularly. He is breathing on his own and cardio-circulatory conditions remain good,” said Navarro Valls in a press statement read to journalists in the Vatican press office.

“This morning he ate breakfast with a good appetite,” including coffee with milk, 10 cookies and yogurt, the spokesman said of the Pope.

Asked how the Pope now communicates, Navarro Valls said: “It is rather difficult to explain. What I can say is that when he went back to his room — the anesthesia was very light, given the light surgery that he had — he made a gesture saying that he wanted to write. And he wrote, jokingly, ‘What have they done to me?’ But right afterward, he wrote: ‘Totus tuus’ [all yours],” in reference to the motto with which he entrusted his pontificate and life to the Virgin Mary.

The Vatican spokesman then clarified the Pope’s condition in the days preceding his surgery.

“From the moment that the Pope left the hospital Feb. 10, he had no fever. This allowed him to undertake his normal activity: Mass in the morning, ‘ad limina’ audiences, receiving his aides, etc.,” Navarro Valls said.

“Certainly there is not now — nor was there ever — any bronchial-pulmonary infection. Naturally, he followed a normal diet,” he added. However, “there were new episodes of acute respiratory insufficiency, caused by a pre-existing functional restriction of the larynx.”

“The Pope was watched over in his apartment, in case the need arose, by a doctor specialized in reanimation, and by Dr. Camaioni, whom I mentioned yesterday,” he continued.

The tracheotomy the Holy Father had Thursday is “called an ‘elective tracheotomy’: This means that it was not an emergency procedure. As we said yesterday, it was a question of ‘assuring adequate breathing for the patient and to favor the resolution of the larynx pathology,'” Navarro Valls explained.

“He is now breathing better, feels notable relief and does not need assistance in breathing — from a machine or otherwise,” he said.

Navarro Valls reported Thursday that “the flu syndrome, which was the reason behind the Pope’s admittance this morning to Gemelli Polyclinic, in recent days was complicated by new episodes of acute respiratory insufficiency, caused by a pre-existing functional restriction of the larynx.”

“This clinical picture pointed to an elective tracheotomy to assure adequate breathing for the patient and to favor the resolution of the larynx pathology,” he added. “The Holy Father, duly informed, gave his consent. The procedure, which began at 8:20 p.m. and ended at 8:50 p.m., was successfully completed. The immediate post-operative situation is regular.”

The Holy Father spent the night in his hospital room, reported Navarro Valls.

A new medical bulletin is not foreseen until next Monday. The Vatican will announce Saturday whether the Holy Father will pray the Angelus with pilgrims on Sunday.

John Paul II might appear at the window of his room on the 10th floor of the Gemelli Polyclinic to bless the faithful. In that case, the substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, would read, as he has done in past occasions, the Holy Father’s greetings.

Today the Pope received in his hospital room Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for Rome, as well as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, and Archbishop Sandri.

On Thursday night, after the surgery, Gianni Letta, undersecretary of the presidency of the Italian government, spoke with the Pope’s doctors and said that, when the doctors told the Pope that they would subject him to a “small operation,” he answered jokingly: “Small? It depends for whom.”

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