This story is updated with information on Sully H.W. Bush, the yellow Labrador service dog.
The 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, has passed away at age 94. His office released the following statement:
His son George W. Bush, who served as the 43rd president, released a statement of his own from the family.
"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died," George W. Bush said. "George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."
The late President Bush suffered from vascular parkinsonism, a form of Parkinson's disease that had forced him to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair.
He had talked about his medical condition which had restricted his ability to walk in an interview in 2012.
"They call it vascular Parkinsonism," Bush told Parade magazine. "It just affects the legs. It's not painful. You tell your legs to move, and they don't move. It's strange, but if you have to have some bad-sounding disease, this is a good one to get."
His family said publicly that the former president was no longer able to walk without the assistance of another person. As someone who had enjoyed a very active lifestyle which had included golf, fishing, jogging and power walks on the beach near his summer home in Maine, it was frustrating for this man who was known be have been very energetic.
Despite needing help with normal living activities, Bush tried to not let it slow him down. Known as a Navy pilot in World War II, he celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays by making a parachute jump from an airplane.
He flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot. He was shot down by the Japanese in 1944. For his effort at bringing the plane down and saving most of its crew, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Former President Bush, his later years, battled multiple illnesses including vascular parkinsonism. It is a rare condition that “mimics Parkinson’s disease.” The condition is marked by a series of small strokes that affect movement, instead of the loss of nerve cells that is typical in Parkinson’s disease.
The Parkinson’s Foundation says people who suffer from vascular parkinsonism often experience a “lower body parkinsonism”. This means they typically have problems with walking and balance. While this is similar to classic Parkinson's, those who suffer from vascular Parkinsonism generally don’t have the noticeable tremors.
The foundation says since the cause of vascular parkinsonism is fundamentally different from true Parkinson’s Disease people do not always respond well to the Parkinson’s disease medications.
In both cases, many people who suffer from either disease often require help with normal living activities and need long-term care services and supports. In some cases, people suffer from some dementia.
Millions of Americans saw the former President and former First Lady Barbara Bush during Super Bowl 51. He was seen wheelchair bound.
Many Americans remember seeing the former president, along with his son, former president George W. Bush, the former first lady Laura Bush and the rest of the Bush family leave St. Martin's Episcopal Church after the funeral service for former first lady Barbara Bush on April 21, 2018.
In an interview, the former president said he believed in an afterlife was coming to terms with his own mortality.
"I've wondered about [heaven]. Who you see when you get there. Who do you look up? How do you find them? There's a lot of people there. Maybe you look around, find some didn't make it, too. ... I don't know how that works. I don't think anybody knows," he said. "I don't fear it, though.
"When I was a little guy, I feared death. I'd worry about it. I'd be scared. Not anymore."
The late President did have help late in his life. His helper was Sully H.W. Bush, a yellow Labrador service dog. The former president was matched up Sully after Barbara Bush passed away. The service dog had a long list of tasks. He was trained to pick up an item as small as a credit card or as large as a cane, get help by pushing an emergency button and wake his handler from a nightmare.
The dog was named after the pilot who safely landed a plane full of passengers on the Hudson River in 2009, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III. “Sully” was trained through a prison puppy program until he was a little older than a year, according to VetDogs. Inmate handlers taught him standard commands and housebreaking before he returned to a specialized campus in New York to learn more skills that would help his handler. In this case, it was the former President of the United States.
Sully is traveled with President Bush one last time, accompanying his casket to Washington, DC.
About the Author
An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.
Contributor since August 21st, 2017
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