Dwight Eisenhower: His Stroke

While speaking to his secretary on November 25, 1957, Eisenhower found he could not complete his sentences. When examined he had neither motor nor sensory impairment. The diagnosis was occlusion of the left middle cerebral artery. Eisenhower, who was 67 years old and had three years remaining in his second term of office, was already taking coumadin at this time 1a.
   After remaining in seclusion for 3 days, Eisenhower returned to work, his speech not yet back to normal. To some, the press coverage of his difficulties in this period seemed "unnecessarily savage and sadistic," since some reporters seemed to be counting the number of goofs Eisenhower made during a press conference. But unlike the 1955 heart attack and the 1956 abdominal operation, the 1957 stroke occurred at a time when important presidential meetings were scheduled SEE BELOW 1a.
Vice President Nixon thought Eisenhower reacted to the stroke quite differently in comparison with the heart attack two years earlier. Nixon saw Eisenhower "fighting back," unlike the periods of despondency and indecision associated with the heart attack.

For example, Eisenhower would react belligerently when he felt his staff was shielding him from an important issue. Once he said "Either I run this damn show, or I'll resign." His reactions to his speech difficulties were variable. Among friends he would occasionally laugh off his mistakes, but on one occasion, when he was having difficulty speaking, he said with effort "There's nothing the matter with me, I'm perfectly all right."

Also unlike the heart attack, his advisors worried about the President's ability to carry on the duties of his office. They worried whether Eisenhower was mentally impaired and whether he would have more strokes in the near future. In fact, Eisenhower and Nixon had already discussed arrangements for transfer of authority before the stroke, and had written it down in a letter that inadvertantly became public in March 1958. Of note, Kennedy and Johnson followed the same model. 1b

Cited Sources
  1. Kucharski, A. Medical management of political patients: the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 1978;22:115-126. Pubmed: 104273.
    a  p.123  b  p.123-124

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