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Doctors Say Czech President Stable

August 6, 1998

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Czech President Vaclav Havel was reading newspapers and communicating through written notes Wednesday, but doctors were closely watching his lingering pneumonia and heart irregularities.

Doctors said the president was in stable condition a day after his heart rate soared to 200 beats per minute and he fell into critical condition for two hours because of blood poisoning caused by pneumonia. His condition was stabilized with electric shocks.

``There were no new dramatic developments overnight or during the day,″ Ilja Kotik, Havel’s personal physician, said Wednesday.

The Czech leader suffered a ruptured colon in April while vacationing in the Austrian Alps. He underwent emergency surgery and a colostomy was performed.

On July 26, a combined Austrian-Czech team of doctors performed further surgery in Prague. On Monday, Havel developed pneumonia related to the operation.

Members of his medical team admitted Wednesday that pneumonia and the irregular heartbeat persisted, but the situation was not as worrisome as it had been.

The president was put on a new type of antibiotics Wednesday morning, the results of which would not be clear for two days.

A former chain smoker and veteran of communist jails, Havel has suffered from chronic bronchitis for years. He has been hospitalized five times since December 1996 when a third of his lung and a cancerous tumor were removed.

``The main problem are the lungs now″, said Bohumil Stastny, a lung specialist on Havel’s medical team. He explained that bronchial phlegm often hindered Havel’s breathing, causing lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.

The Czech presidency is a largely ceremonial position, so while Havel is hospitalized there is no need for his powers to be transferred to someone else.

Should he be unable to return to office, Parliament would nominate a new president.

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