(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was released from Hadassah-University hospital in Ein Kerem December 20, according to chief neurologist Tamir Ben-Hur, who says he is " fit to function as prime minister."
Ben-Hur held a press conference Monday along with hospital director-general Yair Birnbaum and Jacob Naparstek, director of internal medicine, to discuss Sharon's condition following criticism that the public was not being told the full story.
Sharon, 77, was rushed to the hospital Sunday the 18th in the evening after suffering what was diagnosed as a mild stroke.
Ben-Hur denied reports that Sharon had lost consciousness, or was "confused" or "foggy" as a result of the vascular incident. He said that the only impact from the stroke was slurred speech.
"The incident was caused by a small blood clot that for a short time blocked the blood flow to the brain," he said. "It was broken up quickly, and we can say that the blood flow was renewed, is normal, and that the blood flow to the brain is complete."
Ben-Hur said that Sharon's situation started to improve soon after he arrived at the hospital, and that he could say unequivocally that the incident "will not leave any damage or residual effects," adding that there was "an excellent chance it won't repeat itself."
According to Sharon's aides, he was able to sit up and walk around his room Monday evening. His spokesman, Ra'anan Gissin, said that in the morning he received his usual briefings from his top aides, who turned his hospital room into a temporary office. The briefings included a report from his military attach on the tense security situation in Gaza.
"The issue is not where he gets his briefings, but whether he is capable of functioning," Gissin said. "Whether he makes decisions from his office, a tent in the desert or his bedside is irrelevant. What is important is whether he can make a decision. The doctors are satisfied with his functioning."
Gissin, who visited Sharon at 5 p.m., said he found the prime minister in "high spirits and jovial," and wanting to be informed about the time of his release.
The Prime Minister's Office, which was slow Sunday night in responding to inquires about the medical emergency, took extra pains Monday to send out a message that Sharon had not suffered any serious damage, and even dispatched top aide Dov Weisglass to the television stations for a rare interview meant to dispel concerns about his health.
"His spirits are high, he feels and looks good and tomorrow he will leave the hospital," Weisglass told Channel 2. "There is no problem at all with his speech, appearance, behavior or spirits. He feels excellent, is functioning excellently and it is as if it all didn't happen."
Ben-Hur said that Sharon was kept in the hospital for another night in order to allow him to rest and that after a short period he would be able to "return to full activity."
According to Sharon's aides, "full activity" denotes a grueling schedule that would tax a man much younger and trimmer. His usual regimen includes waking up at 6 a.m. for a briefing from his military attach and Gissin, followed by a drive from his ranch to his office in Jerusalem where he begins a day of meetings and various appearances that generally stretch until near midnight.
Ben-Hur said Sharon was receiving treatment to prevent blood clots and would need to undergo another battery of tests in a couple of weeks. He added that an ultra-sound detected the source of the clot as a malfunction in the wall of the heart, which is relatively common.
Sharon is expected to return to his official residence in Jerusalem for the time being, and not to his ranch, in order to be close to the Jerusalem hospital.
Sharon's office received numerous calls from world leaders over the last two days, including US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah.
Gissin said that Sharon laughed when he was told that the Arab satellite television stations were reporting on his health every hour and that he had turned into the "darling of the Arab world."