/ 27 July 2009

Sarkozy leaves hospital with clean bill of health

A smiling French President Nicolas Sarkozy left a Paris military hospital on Monday after overnight tests gave him a clean bill of health despite his collapse while jogging the day before.

Sarkozy left the Val de Grace hospital hand in hand with his supermodel wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, then shook the hands of medical staff and waved to journalists before getting into his official car and being driven off.

Separately, his office issued a statement confirming that doctors had found no sign of heart or neurological trouble and had diagnosed the 54 year old as having suffered a minor fainting episode caused by fatigue.

”The diagnosis is thus one of a near-syncope caused by sustained effort during hot weather, without loss of consciousness, in the context of fatigue linked to a heavy workload,” the Elysee Palace said.

Doctors have recommended that Sarkozy rest, so he has postponed a visit on Tuesday to the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy but will chair Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting as planned, the statement added.

”No medical treatment has been prescribed. He was advised to take it a few days a relative rest,” it said Sarkozy collapsed on Sunday while jogging in the wooded parkland around the Palace of Versailles just outside Paris on a hot and humid summer day.

His bodyguards and his official doctor were in the running party and were able to help him lie him down, while Bruni-Sarkozy raced to the scene of the incident on a police motorbike, a witness told Agence France-Presse.

Sarkozy was taken by helicopter to Val de Grace, which traditionally treats French presidents.

Officials in Sarkozy’s office insisted the president was ”doing well” and played down the incident, while supporters blamed his notoriously ambitious schedule and defended his action man image.

”He takes a lot onto himself. He’s hyperactive, everyone can see that.” Patrick Devedjian, the minister charged with overseeing Sarkozy’s plan to revive the failing French economy, said on RTL radio.

”It’s not in his nature to hold himself back. He puts it like this: ‘Sometimes people criticise me, saying I do too much. Me, I think I don’t do enough’,” he added.

While the president is likely to make a full physical recovery and quickly resume his gruelling schedule, there may be more lasting damage to his carefully crafted image as a young, thrusting leader.

Former president Francois Mitterrand left office aged 78 and concealed a case of prostrate cancer for more than a decade.

Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac left office aged 76 and once spent a week in hospital.

To mark a contrast with his often frail forebears, Sarkozy has played up his vigour, and is regularly photographed jogging and cycling in his trademark New York Police Department T-shirt, sometimes with famous sportsmen.

While running for office he promised to make his annual health checkups public, although in fact he only did so once and was last year caught out for having concealed minor throat surgery from the public.

Some commentators said the incident in the woods may have political consequences.

Writing in the regional newspaper Charente Libre, Dominique Garraud said voters have no way of knowing if this was Sarkozy’s first medical problem.

”No one can know for sure, as long as transparency about the president’s health remains a taboo,” he argued.

Patrice Chabanet of the Journal de la Haute-Marne urged the president to ease up: ”Nicolas Sarkozy can no longer allow himself to push his limits, and to expose himself to a new accident. Then the risk would become political.” — Sapa-AFP