Strokes, heart attacks, drug addiction and a brush with the deadly Spanish flu: Boris Johnson is the latest prime minister to suffer serious health problems while in office
- Johnson joins a litany of leaders who have suffered serious ill health
- Winston Churchill, suffered a serious stroke while prime minister in early 1950s
- David Lloyd George had a narrow escape from deadly Spanish flu 100 years ago
Prime ministers through the years have suffered terrible health problems in office that have included strokes, heart attacks and even amphetamine addiction.
Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation with coronavirus means he joins a litany of leaders who have suffered serious ill health and or been admitted to hospital during their term or terms in office.
They include his hero, Winston Churchill, who famously suffered a serious stroke while prime minister in the early 1950s.
Less well documented and semi-forgotten in the past are the brushes with death and disease suffered by some of his other predecessors in No 10.
Here we look at some of the previous prime ministers who have had health concerns while in the nation’s top political office.
Winston Churchill: 1940-45 and 1951-55
Revered as a war hero and famous for his garrulous character and bustling, often champagne-fuelled energy, Winston Churchill none-the-less struggled with his health behind the scenes.
He suffered a mild heart attack while at the White House in Washington in 1941, just a year after taking over as prime minister, and contracted pneumonia two years later.
In 1949, while opposition leader, he suffered a stroke on holiday, which affected his health to the extent that the King gently suggested he resign as PM in 1951 in favour of Anthony Eden.
Churchill suffered a second one during an official dinner at No 10 while in office in 1953, leaving him paralysed on one side.
His aides and family conspired to keep news of his illness out of the press, at a time when the Cold War was very chilly and there were fears he may not survive.
Eden’s own illness meant that Churchill did not quit until 1955. He suffered a third stroke the following year and died in 1965.
David Lloyd George: 1916 to 1922
David Lloyd George was a pugnacious Welshman, the only PM to not speak English as their first language.
Famous for steering the then British Empire through the First World War he was also controversial, with a post-war honours scandal and his love life tarnishing his record, despite introducing universal suffrage in 1918.
In September 1918 he developed a sore throat after visiting Manchester’s Albert Square and mingling in crowds during a ceremony for soldiers and munitions workers.
It later became clear he had Spanish influenza – which was rife in Manchester at the time of his visit. He spent 11 days in hospital and was hooked up to a ventilator before recovering. The disease would go on to kill more than 200,000 people in Britain and millions around the world.
Anthony Eden: 1955 – 57
Anthony Eden, who served in Churchill’s war Cabinet and succeeded him in 1955, had a long history off ill health that prevented him from taking over from the ailing Churchill sooner.
He has suffered from a stress-related ulcer for decades but underwent a botched operation in 1953 that left him in regular excruciating pain, requiring rounds of more surgery.
On top of this he was prescribed benzedrine. They regarded as a harmless stimulant to reduce tiredness, it is a form of amphetamine and can become addictive.
Eden complained of insomnia and mood swings, which are side-effects of the drug’s use.
Some historians have attributed his poor leadership during the 1956 Suez Crisis – seen as the failed last hurrah of British as a world superpower – to this drug use, although its impact is disputed.
Eden resigned in 1957 and was later elevated to the peerage as Lord Avon.
Harold Wilson: 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976
Harold Wilson had two terms in office that covered both the Swinging Sixties boom and the industrial-unrest strewn period of the mid 1970s.
Language experts believe the Labour leader’s Commons speeches in the mid-1970s show tell-tale signs of mental decline and hint at the beginning of dementia.
Wilson’s surprise announcement in spring 1976 that he was resigning led to a host of conspiracy theories.
But the research supports the long-held view that he was suffering from some form of dementia. He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
He would also go on to be diagnosed with colon cancer, which eventually led to his death in 1995.
Gordon Brown: 2007 – 10
The Labour prime minister suffered from decades of sight problems, including during his three-year term in office.
His problems began decades earlier when he lost the sight in his left eye and suffered a loss of vision in his right eye, despite four major operations, after a kick to his head during a school rugby match.
He struggled on with his limited vision but suffered further problems in September 2009.
In 2017, discussing the incident he said he carried on working for a week without being able to see properly and without informing colleagues.
‘When I woke up in Downing Street one Monday in September, I knew something was very wrong,’ he said. ‘My vision was foggy.’
He was taken to London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital and was told he needed surgery for a torn retina. But after further examinations it was decided it was unnecessary and could lead to further complications.
Tony Blair: 1997 to 2007
Mr Blair is the longest-serving Labour prime minister ever, with a solid decade in power.
He was also one of the youngest when he took office at the age of 43, and was seen as fit and active.
In 2003 the then 50-year-old spent almost five hours with doctors after suffering chest pains at Chequers, his official countryside home.
He was taken to the nearby Stoke Mandeville Hospital after complaining he was feeling ‘under the weather’, Downing Street said at the time, but did not require an ambulance.
But he was then moved to London’s Hammersmith hospital which has a specialist coronary care unit.
Doctors there carried out a series of checks and diagnosed supraventricular tachycardia, in which the heart beats much faster than usual.
They gave him a cardio-version – a treatment to regulate his heartbeat – before letting him return to Downing Street.
The following year he underwent minor surgery under local anesthetic for a ‘heart flutter’.
Theresa May: 2016-2019
Theresa May was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2012 while Home Secretary.
This version of the pancreas disorder means that she has to maintain her blood sugar level with insulin injections.
Complications from severe cases can include a loss of blood circulation to extremities, leading to amputations, while untreated ultra high and low blood sugar levels can lead to coma and possibly death.
But she is believed to have kept in robust health while injecting herself with insulin several times a day. She was a noted fan of hill walking with her husband Philip.
She also used modern technology to keep her condition regulated, using a FreeStyle Libre monitor (pictured on her arm), which allows diabetics to use a mobile phone app to monitor sugar levels, removing the need to test using a finger-prick blood test.
Source: Read Full Article