IKE’S HEALTH: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
During his presidency, Eisenhower had several reoccurring health episodes, with the two most serious being his gastrointestinal problems and heart disease. There remains disagreement among scholars as to the number of heart attacks President Eisenhower had throughout his life. Some say as little as two, while others say as many as seven but, it was Eisenhower’s episodes of gastrointestinal problems which seemed to come about without any apparent cause, resulting in sever stomach cramps, that plagued him throughout most of his adult life.
In his book titled Eisenhower’s Heart Attack, Clarence G. Lasby explains that it was not until a medical examination was conducted that Eisenhower finally learned what was causing all of his stomach cramps and gastrointestinal problems dating back to the 1920’s. As Lasby notes:
The president had chronic ileitis, an inflammation of the lowest potion the small intestine, also known as Crohn’s disease after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, who first described it in 1932. It was a little-known disease, considered mild rather than severe, and it primarily affected the young. It usually had a slow onset, but once established its symptoms tended to recur over months or years nearly always ending in surgery.
Lasby goes on to further explain why the President’s medical team, even after learning that Eisenhower was inflicted with this little-known disease, decided against taken any surgical measure to alleviate this problem, stating:
Since the president was free of any active symptoms, the diagnosis did not pose any immediate medical problem. The doctors found no indication of a need for surgery and were content to rely on continued observation and possible dietary changes.
Noteworthy is the fact that, despite his Crohn’s
disease, heart problems, and heavy smoking Eisenhower enjoyed a long
life, living to be almost eighty years old.
While in Washington, I had a severe digestive upset this spring, which finally put me to bed on March 21. By the end of a week I was fit to travel and President Truman invited me to use his residential facilities at Key West. I went down there with General Snyder and remained until April 12. On that date he took me to Augusta National Golf Club where I remained until May 12.
This gesture of friendship by President Truman for Eisenhower to use the presidential retreat in Key West was genuine and demonstrates that the Truman-Eisenhower relationship as still on good terms during this time. The positive nature of their relationship is also reflected in an April 9, 1949 letter written by Truman to Eisenhower in response to Eisenhower thanking him for the use of the Little White House in which he writes:
…both Eisenhower and Snyder were purposefully
withholding the occurrence of this illness from the public and from the
consulting cardiologists. Snyder, he charged, “definitely belonged to
the old school of physicians” like Vice Admiral Ross McIntyre (who for
twelve years had hidden the ailments of Franklin Roosevelt) and was more
interested in protecting the “political life” of Eisenhower than he
was providing the truth to the public. Mattingly liked and respected
Eisenhower, but he believed he had “sanctioned and collaborated in the
deception. “As an ambitious army officer,” the cardiologist deduced,
“he, like many others with aspirations of becoming high-ranking
officers and leaders, made special effort to keep his records free of
any disease or physical abnormalities which might interfere with
subsequent promotions and assignments.”
General Eisenhower is subject to recurrent attacks of abdominal distension with colic, at times mild, occasionally severe. The exact cause has not been determined. There is a history of dysentery covering a period of years; no bacillary or amoebic cause was ever demonstrated. Diligent search has been renewed for any bacterial or parasitic cause upon several occasions during the past few years with negative results.
General Eisenhower’s GI tract reacts to any nervous upset with an immediate explosive evacuation of the intestines, or a more serious combination of manifestations. The General, due to a very painful and prostrating attack of colic and abdominal distention in March, 1949, and several moderately painful attacks at other times, now becomes alarmed and apprehensive at first indication of abdominal distention and cramps. These attacks usually develop after a period of nervously exhausting work, and have been precipitated by eating a highly spice…meal.
Although Dr. Mattingly and Dr. Snyder both seem to
make a compelling argument as to the true nature of Eisenhower’s 1949
illness, one must take seriously Dr. Snyder’s diagnosis for the mere
fact that Dr. Snyder was not only there for the 1949 episode but, also
for the previous gastrointestinal episodes that Eisenhower had
experienced. Therefore, Snyder was quite familiar with Eisenhower’s
symptoms and health. Also, it was not until some time after this episode
that Eisenhower and Dr. Snyder finally found that
it was the little-known Crohn’s disease
* that had been causing Ike’s
gastrointestinal problems for so many years. Either way, it was
Eisenhower’s heart problems that led him to his stay in Key West a
second time in 1955.
eisenhowerinstitute.org/commentary/WatsonHealthIkeArticle.htm Fair use
Exposure to the chemicals of warfare ...
causes 'the runs' ... diarrhea ... looks like 'the flu' *
What went on with FDR? *