HOUSTON - Former President George H.W. Bush's family sought privacy and provided no new details Thursday about his medical condition, a day after his spokesman said he's in intensive care after being hospitalized for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough.
Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said he would put out another statement "when events warrant it," citing the family's right to and desire for privacy.
Bush, 88, entered Methodist Hospital in Houston on Nov. 23 for treatment of what McGrath has described as a "stubborn" cough. He had spent about a week there earlier in November for treatment of the same condition.
It was hoped Bush would be well enough to spend Christmas at home. But while his cough improved, he developed a persistent fever. McGrath disclosed Wednesday that Bush, the oldest living former president, had been transferred to the intensive care unit Sunday and his condition was downgraded to "guarded."
"He needs to rally," McGrath said. "We continue to be cautiously optimistic."
McGrath said Bush has been in good spirits throughout his stay at the hospital.
The former president has had visits from family and friends, including longtime friend James Baker II, his former Secretary of State. Bush's daughter, Dorothy, arrived Wednesday from her home in Bethesda, Md. Other visitors have included his sons George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.
Because Bush is listed in guarded condition, President Barack Obama is getting regular updates about his health.
Pulmonary critical care specialist Dr. Puneet Patni is not treating Bush, but said at the age of 88, seemingly minor ailments can escalate quickly -- especially in a case where doctors have not yet pin-pointed the cause of the high fever.
"A lot of the physical symptoms don't manifest as clearly in elderly patients, so you have to be extremely vigilant," Patni said. "The fever is concerning for the fact that maybe there's been a complication of the bronchitis, perhaps a pneumonia."
Bush and his wife, Barbara, live in Houston during the winter and spend their summers at a home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Bush had served two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president when he was elected in 1988 to succeed Reagan. Four years later, after a term highlighted by the success of the 1991 Gulf War in Kuwait, he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton amid voters' concerns about the economy.
Bush was a naval aviator in World War II -- at one point the youngest in the Navy -- and was shot down over the Pacific. He's skydived on at least three of his birthdays since leaving the White House, most recently when he turned 85.
He left New England for an oil business job in West Texas in 1948. He's also been a Republican congressman from Texas, U.S. ambassador to China and CIA director.
Bush suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that forced him in recent years to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair for mobility.
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