Monday, December 26, 2011

Harry Truman Dies

Two U.S. presidents died on the day after Christmas. The first was Harry Truman, who passed away in 1972. Exactly 34 years later, Gerald Ford died.

Today, Truman. Tomorrow, Ford. The following is an excerpt from President Truman's obituary in the New York Times by B. Drummond Ayers Jr.

"Mr. Truman's final illness was the eighth to put him in Research Hospital. The others involved four cases of intestinal infection, a broken rib, a hernia and appendicitis.

"The final period of illness began in late November as a case of minor lung congestion. Doctors initially treated him at home.

"But they ordered him hospitalized on Dec. 5 when the congestion grew worse and his heart, already weakened by a long struggle with hardening of the arteries, began to beat irregularly under the strain.

"At daybreak of the 18th day of his hospitalization, Mr. Truman went through was doctor's called a 'dangerous period' as his blood pressure dropped and his temperature rose.

"Mr. Truman's condition was changed from 'very serious' to 'critical' and his doctors and nurses began to monitor him almost constantly, particularly as his breathing became labored, his kidney output decreased, fluid built in his lungs and his heart began to flutter.

"On Christmas morning, the former President was so weak that that his doctors said that death could come 'within hours.'

"Today, it finally came.

"The room in which the former President died is on the sixth floor of Research Hospital, a 500-bed facility he helped dedicate in 1963. Two red and green Christmas bells hang in the window, which looks east toward Independence and the recently completed baseball and football stadium of the Harry S. Truman sports complex.

"The room cost $59.50 a day. In Mr. Truman's case it was paid for by private medical insurance and Medicare. Long an advocate of Federal Health plans, Mr. Truman held Medicare card number 1. He had not been able to push such a plan through during his own presidency, but Lyndon B. Johnson was more successful and came to Independence in 1965 to sign the Medicare Act in the Truman Library, enrolling the former President as the first member.

"It was a final political victory for Harry S. Truman."

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