There are signs that the health of former President George H.W. Bush is improving. A tube inserted to help him breathe was removed Friday morning, and doctors say he is doing well in terms of breathing again on his own. He is using minimal supplemental oxygen.
The nation's oldest living ex-president has been at Houston Methodist Hospital for almost a week while being treated for pneumonia. The 92-year-old watched the inauguration of President Donald Trump from the intensive care unit, according to Jim McGrath, the family spokesman.
Barbara Bush remains hospitalized as well for the treatment of bronchitis. At 91 years old, she, too, is said to be recovering well with medication and rest. The Bushes, married on Jan. 6, 1945, have had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history.
While physicians say they expect a full recovery and that the couple will be released soon, it's worth nothing that the health of the former president is compromised by a condition called vascular parkinsonism. It's a rare syndrome that mimics Parkinson's disease, the Associated Press reported.
Vascular parkinsonism is often marked by symptoms of Parkinson's — slow movements, tremors, difficulty walking and balance issues. Brain scans suggest these patients have suffered small strokes rather than the gradual loss of nerve cells seen in Parkinson's patients.
"They look like Parkinson's from the waist down. From the waist up, they look very expressive," Dr. Alberto Espay of the University of Cincinnati's Gardner Neuroscience Institute, told the AP of these patients.
Treatment focuses on trying to lower the chance of additional strokes through controlling the risk factors of stroke, which include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Bush told Parade magazine in 2012 that the condition affects only his legs and is not painful. But he added that it's been tough for him, since he has always enjoyed being outdoors and active. The relatively rare condition affects roughly 20,000 Americans.