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On Eve of Her Birthday, Mother Teresa’s Illness Persists

August 26, 1996

CALCUTTA, India (AP) _ On the eve of Mother Teresa’s 86th birthday, the champion of the poor remained in serious condition, battling heart troubles and a lung infection. Still, she appeared more alert than in previous days.

The frail Catholic nun sat up for a few minutes in her bed with the help of nurses, and according to doctors, scribbled a note saying: ``I want to see sisters.″

When six sisters of her Missionaries of Charity visited the Intensive Care Unit with birthday well-wishes, she wrote another note saying: ``Sisters, God bless you.″

Though doctors said Mother Teresa’s condition remained grave, they noted some positive signs.

``Her lung infection today is better,″ said Dr. Sandeep Lahiri, one of a team of six doctors treating her at Woodlands Nursing Home, where she has been hospitalized for almost a week.

Although Mother Teresa’s heartbeat was still irregular, doctors were attempting to remove her completely from the respirator. ``She is being intermittently supported by ventilator as a process of weaning away,″ a medical statement said today.

Over the weekend, the ailing nun’s condition stabilized, but her heartbeat remained irregular and she continued to require a respirator, her personal physician, Dr. A.K. Bardhan said.

At the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the order Mother Teresa founded, more than 400 nuns, priests and visitors today sang hymns for her.

A priest informed the gathering that Mother Teresa was showing signs of recovery and had asked for Eucharist _ the Holy sacrament _ on Sunday for the first time since she was hospitalized Aug. 20.

``I believe that the power of prayers did the miracle,″ said Ana Ganza, a voluntary worker and teacher from Toronto.

Prayer vigils also were held by 30 kids in a nearby chapel at Shishu Bhawan, a center for homeless children, and by 200 lepers at Gandhiji Prem Sadan, 15 miles north of Calcutta.

On Tuesday Mother Teresa turns 86, but special prayer services and other celebrations were held today. In 1993, then-Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao erroneously sent birthday greetings to Mother Teresa a day early, and many people since have marked the occasion on both days.

Mother Teresa was admitted Tuesday with a 100-degree fever brought on by malaria. Doctors said the fever aggravated existing cardiac troubles that have caused her heart to fail three times since Thursday.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was put on a respirator, but developed a lung infection.

Looking tiny, pale and weak in her bed in the intensive care unit, Mother Teresa mustered the strength Sunday to bless six visiting nuns.

Mother Teresa has been battling health problems for years. She suffered a heart attack in 1983 during a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome. In 1989, a second, stronger, heart attack almost killed her, forcing her to get a pacemaker.

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