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Carter, 95, recovering after surgery to relieve pressure on brain

Updated November 12, 2019 - 11:55 am

ATLANTA — Former President Jimmy Carter was recovering Tuesday following surgery to relieve pressure from brain bleeding linked to recent falls.

A statement from a spokeswoman said there were no complications from the procedure, performed at Emory University Hospital for a subdural hematoma, or blood on the brain surface.

Carter, 95, will remain in the hospital for observation, said Deanna Congileo, his spokeswoman at the Carter Center.

The statement said the Carters thank everyone for the many well-wishes they have received, and Congileo doesn’t anticipate making more announcements until he’s released.

It was unclear how long Carter might be hospitalized, said his pastor, the Rev. Tony Lowden.

“If anybody can make it through this Jimmy Carter can. His will to serve is greater than his will to give up,” said Lowden.

Bleeding from recent falls

The Carter Center said the bleeding was related to Carter’s recent falls. He used a walker during his most recent public appearance.

The first fall, in the spring, required hip replacement surgery. He hit his head falling again on Oct. 6 and received 14 stitches, but still traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to help build a Habitat for Humanity home shortly thereafter. And he was briefly hospitalized after fracturing his pelvis on Oct. 21.

Carter’s wife of 73 years, Rosalynn Carter, is with him at the hospital, Lowden said. “She won’t leave his side,” Lowden said.

Large brain bleeds, usually after major trauma, can be life-threatening. But often, especially in elderly patients, the injury is a slow leak that takes a while to build up until initial symptoms such as headaches and confusion appear, said Dr. Lola B. Chambless, associate professor of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt University.

“It’s very typical in this setting to see these develop a few weeks or even a month or so after a fall,” said Chambless, who has not treated Carter.

To relieve pressure, surgeons most commonly drill one or two small holes through the skull to drain the leakage site. Larger bleeds causing more severe pressure may require removing a piece of skull.

Carter has been through a series of health problems in recent years.

Overcame dire cancer diagnosis

He received a dire cancer diagnosis in 2015, announcing that melanoma had spread. After partial removal of his liver, treatment for brain lesions, radiation and immunotherapy, he said he was cancer-free.

Despite his increasingly frail health, the nation’s oldest-ever ex-president still teaches Sunday school about twice monthly at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains in southwest Georgia.

The church asked for prayers for Carter and his family in a message on its Facebook page. The church has announced that Carter will not be teaching his Sunday school class this week.

Carter candidly discussed his own mortality on Nov. 3, during his most recent appearance at their church. Referring to his cancer diagnosis, Carter said he assumed he’d die quickly after finding out the extent of his illness.

“Obviously I prayed about it. I didn’t ask God to let me live, but I just asked God to give me a proper attitude toward death. And I found that I was absolutely and completely at ease with death,” he said.

Since then, Carter said he’s been “absolutely confident” in the Christian idea of life after death, and hasn’t worried about his own death.

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