Thursday, July 27, 2006

Post-Op: Card. George "Awake, Speaking"

4.15pm ET: In the first indication of Cardinal Francis George's condition after bladder cancer surgery earlier today, Chicago vicar-general Fr John Canary began the press conference by expressing his feeling that "the prayers have worked."

"I'm happy to report the cardinal is doing well," a priest-doctor told the flock of media who gathered for the briefing at Chicago's Loyola University Medical Center. However, the medical team which conducted the three-hour procedure reported that the cardinal chose the aggressive treatment undertaken today because the cancer was also found in his right ureter.

An hour after the conclusion of the surgery which removed his bladder, prostate, lymph nodes and a portion of his ureter, his caretakers said that the 69 year-old cardinal was awake and talking.

One doctor said that the team is "very happy about the results of what we have" -- however, a definitive prognosis cannot be made until the end of next week with the results of a pathological exam on the removed tissue.

The oncologists said that they're very hopeful for the best possible result, and confident the cardinal can return to his active work.

The cardinal, head of the 2.4 million-member archdiocese of Chicago and vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, first reported blood in his urine on 8 June, and went for a preliminary exam the following day. Two weeks later, on the 23rd, a bladder exam and cytologic test found "typical cells suspicious for cancer" indicating a "high grade tumor, though still superficial." Further tests, both invasive and CT scans, found that his right was ureter partially blocked and dilated. At that time, a stent was inserted as initial pathology results were anticipated.

The cardinal "did very, very well," one of the doctors said, reporting that it went "very smoothly" and that the patient was "strong."

When asked about the method by which George's urinary function would be reconstructed, the medical team invoked the cardinal's request that they not discuss his choice until he is able to speak about it himself. Once he awoke, he asked how the surgery had gone and replied that he was feeling no discomfort.

At several points, the doctors underlined that, while the initial senses remains positive as the carcinoma in situ found in biopsy is a superficial type of cancer, the pathology will determine if the disease is "superficial or invasive." The media was told that multiple urinalyses over the last three years and an ultrasound of the cardinal's right kidney taken two years ago all turned up "perfectly fine."

George's gastro-intestinal tract is expected to restart itself in the next few days, the doctors wish to have him moving around tomorrow morning, and eating again in three to four days.

Another briefing is scheduled for tomorrow, and another when the pathology results are completed.