Arroyo recovery prospect ‘remarkable’
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “doing well” after undergoing a five-hour surgery on her cervical spine, her doctors said Friday night.
Arroyo, 64, was recuperating at the surgical intensive care unit of the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, and the prognosis for her recovery was “remarkable,” the doctors said.
“Currently she’s awake, she can talk,” Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, her main attending physician, told a press briefing last night.
Cervantes said the operation finished at past 2 p.m. and about two hours later, Arroyo woke up after the anaesthesia wore off.
“She’s being assessed if there are any complications immediately after surgery, like any neurological deficit particularly to the respiratory muscle and the motor and sensory function of hands,” she said.
“Motor [movement] which was decreased prior to surgery is now normal. We did not find any problem as of date,” she added.
Dr. Mario Ver, the orthopedic surgeon who headed the team of doctors who performed the operation, said Arroyo had regained full power in her arms, which he said was “a good recovery of the neurological deficit”.
“Clinically, she’s doing well,” he said.
Ver explained that he attached a titanium plate to the spine of Arroyo, which he described as in “in kyphosis” or hunched.
“[We] realigned the deformed spine. Her spine is in kyphosis, that’s why she has this kind of problem for so many years,” he said.
Ver said recovery time would be around three weeks, and Arroyo will have to stay home throughout the period to recuperate further.
He said Arroyo had been suffering from the disease for eight years, earlier diagnosed as cervical spondylosis, which he had been treating conservatively with physical therapy until she could no longer tolerate the pain.
Cervical spondylosis, an age-related deterioration in the bones of the neck, causes a misalignment in the spine which in turn puts pressure on the nerves that transmit signals to the upper extremities.
Cervantes clarified that Arroyo’s confinement to the ICU was part of the protocol since the surgery was one the toughest involving the spine. Doctors will be assessing her condition again today to see if she can be brought to a regular room to recover, she said.
Cervantes also pointed out that the former president did not have any liver or gastroenterological problems. Although she is a liver specialist, Cervantes said she had to be on the team as she was Arroyo’s personal physician.
Ver explained that cervical spondylosis is a common disorder. It happens 90 percent of the time, but majority of the cases do not need surgical intervention, he said.
Cervantes thanked the people who supported Arroyo through the surgery. Contrary to advice allegedly being given the family to take the former president abroad for the operation, the operation’s success only showed Filipino doctors are at par with the world’s best, she said.
There was talk earlier that Arroyo would be flown to the US for the surgery.
Arroyo family members—the former President’s husband Mike, her two sons and their children—waited out the surgery at a restaurant near the lobby of the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Fort Bonifacio.
From what reporters could see of the restaurant, the Arroyo males were smiling and appeared to be in high spirits as they talked and lounged in the comfortable restaurant seats.
Arroyo political ally Lito Atienza, the former mayor of Manila and former environment secretary, arrived at about 2 p.m. Before going into the facility, Atienza obliged reporters, saying he and his family were constantly praying for the success of the operation.
Whether foe or ally, Atienza said criticism of the former President should stop.
“The Christian thing to do is to pray for the former President,” he said.
When Atienza left the hospital a few minutes later, all he could give was a smile and a wave.
Arroyo’s lawyer, Raul Lambino, said his client had been informed the day before her surgery that a new set of whistle-blowers had emerged accusing her of election fraud.
She just shrugged it off as “old news,” he said.
Lambino said Arroyo told him to take care of the Batasan break-in allegations that she said were merely a rehash of previous charges that had been widely reported in the media years ago.
“The old Congress was filled with very vocal opposition leaders. If they believed the charges then with the video evidence, they should have done something about it that same year,” said Lambino.
He said the ex-President has been barred access to TV, radio, Internet and newspapers by her doctors who fear the news could cause undue stress.
Aside from denying the election fraud and graft charges that he said were the result of “orchestrated efforts” by Malacañang and its allies, Lambino said it was not true that Arroyo had the deep pockets to hire the best lawyers. He said most of the lawyers representing her were working for free.
Lawyer Estelito Mendoza said that while he was representing Arroyo in two cases (one in the Supreme Court and the other in the Department of Justice), he has no plans of representing her in electoral fraud cases.
Mendoza was the lawyer of the late Fernando Poe Jr., Arroyo’s opponent in the 2004 elections who claimed to have been cheated.