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Archive for Saturday, January 13, 2001

Reagan breaks hip in fall at California home

January 13, 2001

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— Former President Reagan broke his right hip in a fall at his home Friday afternoon and will have surgery this morning, his spokeswoman said.

Reagan, who turns 90 on Feb. 6, was taken from his Bel-Air home by ambulance to St. John's Health Center, where he was resting comfortably, said his chief of staff Joanne Drake, who described it as "just a simple fall."

The former president's wife, Nancy, was taken with him to the hospital in the midafternoon, Drake said.

"He is fully alert, in good humor and in stable condition," she said in a statement. Drake said the surgery likely would involve installing a pin in the hip.

Reagan disclosed in November 1994 in a passionate letter to the American people that he has Alzheimer's disease. The nation's 40th chief executive faded from public view a short time later and has been rarely seen outside his home. He discontinued going to his Century City office in 1999 but still made trips to parks and enjoyed strolls on the Venice Beach boardwalk with his Secret Service contingent.

Drake said that Reagan's children were notified, including eldest daughter Maureen, who has been undergoing cancer treatments at the same hospital since Dec. 11.

An estimated 250,000 people, mostly elderly, break their hips every year in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Only one-quarter of hip fracture patients make a full recovery and 20 percent die within a year, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Half of patients need a cane or walker, and 40 percent go from hospital to a nursing home.

Reagan generally exhibited good physical condition during his public life. During his visits to his Santa Barbara County ranch, he chopped wood and rode horseback. His deteriorating health forced sale of the ranch, however.

Reagan was born in 1911, in Tampico, Ill., and acquired the nickname "Dutch" as a baby. After college he began a career as a sports broadcaster, then jumped into acting in the 1937 film "Love is on the Air."

His movie career took off with the role of halfback George Gipp in "Knute Rockne, All-American," permanently associating Reagan with the coach's exhortation to "win one for the Gipper." Reagan served multiple terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild starting in 1947 and then ran for California governor, beating Democratic incumbent Edmund G. "Pat" Brown in the 1966 election and winning re-election in 1970.

Reagan unsuccessfully challenged President Ford to be the Republican candidate in 1976, then emerged as the GOP frontrunner in 1980 against President Carter.

At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president. He won election Nov. 4, 1980.

Well wishes can be sent to the Reagan Foundation, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, Calif. 93065.

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