Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Records show PM in good health
Jamaica Observer
Sunday, September 29, 2002


On the face of it, Prime Minister P J Patterson is in good health despite his two fainting spells over the past decade and his clear discomfort while in a hot room at a function at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.

At worst, the prime minister is a borderline hypertensive, who uses a popular blood pressure tablet, Norvasc, and he had a benign polyp removed from the colon at Emory University Hospital in August, during his trip to Atlanta, his medical records suggest.

In fact, Patterson's doctors, in Jamaica and abroad, say that Patterson's fainting episodes, in October 1993 and last November, were due to 'vasovagal syncope'. This, one doctor explained last night, is when the vagus nerves, which supply the blood vessels to the bowels, stimulate those blood vessels and cause blood to accumulate in the bowels and lessen the flow to the brain. The person becomes dizzy and possibly faints.

"There is no evidence to suggest that either cardiac or neurological disease was responsible for his symptoms," said Patterson's personal doctor, University of the West Indies teaching hospital consultant, Orrin Barrow, in a document on the state of Patterson's health.
Patterson ordered the release of his medical records in response to recent speculation about the state of his health after it appeared to be emerging as a campaign issue for the October 16 general elections.

"My feeling is that the 12th of September (1993) you had an episode involving profusion of your brain, which likeliest came on as a product of the heat and an automatic nervous system which had some degree of predisposition to such an event," said Dr James G Stewart, a Miami neurologist, after a series of neurological tests on Patterson proved negative. "That would be partly reflected in the mild blood pressure drop on standing today (October 29, 1993), which is something ordinarily in a person of your fitness I would not expect to find. It, however, is not in the critical range..."

After Patterson's faint last November, a UWI neurologist, David Gilbert, gave Patterson an apparently clean bill, but warned the prime minister to avoid the triggers for vasovaganal syncope.
"I have discussed the likely differential diagnoses with Mr Patterson and suggested lifestyle modifications directed towards avoiding triggers/precipitants of peripheral vasodilation - prolonged standing, hot environments, hot baths, poor leg muscle tone, dehydration, B-blockers, diuretics," Gilbert said in his report to Barrow.
Dr John Carronna of Cornell University, came to the same conclusion about Patterson's neurological condition and said in his report to Barrow: "I will leave his further evaluation to you. I requested no further neurological work-up and I recommend no treatment."

The doctor at Emory Clinic who removed Patterson's polyp told the prime minister: "It was completely removed during the procedure. As this is a benign lesion, there is no need for follow-up."
He recommended that Patterson do a colonoscopy every 10 years.