LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Doctors in Jerusalem said today that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's condition showed improvement. The doctors said there is some reduced swelling in Sharon's brain following a series of operations to relieve pressure caused by a massive stroke this past Wednesday. NPR's Linda Gradstein is on the line from Jerusalem where she is following Sharon's condition.
Linda, elaborate a little bit on the latest the doctors have said about how Sharon is doing.
LINDA GRADSTEIN: Well, Sharon had another CT scan this morning, and the director of Hadassah Hospital came out. He told reporters that the swelling in his brain has gone down, that Sharon's intercranial and blood pressure were within the normal range and that the cerebral spinal fluid is draining well. He said that assuming there are no changes, tomorrow, doctors will gradually bring him out of his medically induced coma and he said only at that time will it be clear how much brain damage Sharon has suffered. Doctors say that the left side of his brain has not been affected. That's the side that controls speech. There seems to have been kind of a change in what the doctors were saying. You know, in the 24, 48 hours after the massive stroke, they were very, very pessimistic. Now they are slightly optimistic. Dr. Jose Cohen, who is the neurosurgeon who performed the three operations to stop the bleeding in Sharon's brain, said last night that he believes that Sharon will survive and that he may be able to speak and understand.
HANSEN: Even though the doctors seem more optimistic this weekend about Sharon's prospects of managing some kind of recovery from the stroke, that hasn't changed any expectations in Israel that his political career is over, has it?
GRADSTEIN: No. No. No. His political career is certainly over. Doctors say that even if, you know, the brain damage is not as bad as they thought, it's a question of months if not years of rehabilitation. Sharon's political career is completely over. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has taken over. Olmert this morning chaired the Cabinet meeting and he said that he will continue with Sharon's policies. There seemed to be a difference. Olmert chaired an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning just after Sharon's massive stroke, and there he looked very shaky. He was extremely pale. Now Ehud Olmert seems much more in charge of things, and Israel in any case is going to elections at the end of March. Those elections will go forward as expected.
HANSEN: NPR's Linda Gradstein in Jerusalem.
Linda, thank you very much.
GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Liane.
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