George H.W. Bush: Physician's story of the Japanese Vomit

Japan puke
In January 1992, while at a formal dinner in Japan, Bush became ill. He vomited on the Prime Minister of Japan, then fainted. Earlier in the evening, Bush had told his physician he was feeling unwell 1a. Bush disregarded Dr. Burton Lee's advice to skip the dinner 2 SEE BELOW.

It proved to be nothing more than "the flu," but coming on the heels of Bush's diagnoses of atrial fibrillation and Graves disease in the preceding 12 months, there was concern over his physical health MORE.

Comment: During the episode Bush had the appearance of a man suffering an inferior-wall myocardial infarction. An electrocardiogram was, however, normal. It's not clear what the Japanese Prime Minister thought of all this. One is left to ponder the immortal line from the immortal movie Animal House: "Flounder, you didn't just throw up in front of Dean Wormer, you threw up on Dean Wormer!"

Interestingly, Bush's son George W. Bush also suffered a syncopal episode while President.

Dr. Lee recounted the episode in 2009 2. He had advised Bush not to attend because of the illness. He was in the ballroom when the episode began:
I could see it happening from almost 100 feet away. ... I could see the color change in his face and get pale and green and gray. I said, "Uh-oh."
Lee tried to get to his patient, but the Secret Service swarmed and others blocked his way. There was only one path left.
I got down on my hands and knees and started going under the table. I went between people's legs, and damned if I didn't end up right on top of him under the head table.
Looking back on it:
I knew I was going to get some sort of crazy thing in four years, but this was above and beyond where I thought I was going to go. I felt terribly sorry, but it worked out. He became better friends with the prime minister of Japan, and they remained friends for a long time.
Cited Sources
  1. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.
    a  p.294

    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.

  2. Hedger B. White coats in the White House: Former presidential physicians reflect on their service. AMedNews. Mar. 23, 2009.


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