Israel’s former president Shimon Peres was transferred to intensive care Wednesday morning in critical but stable condition after suffering a major stroke on Tuesday.
Israel’s preeminent elder statesman, 93, was being transferred to Sheba Medical Center’s neurosurgery department’s ICU after his condition had stabilized, Sheba chief Prof. Yitzhak Kreiss told a press conference.
Peres’s personal physician and son-in-law, Raphy Walden, said doctors had sedated Peres again to keep his condition stable. “It’s hard to foresee, but he’s in stable condition and there’s no immediate danger to his life,” Army Radio quoted him saying.
Walden said Peres was responsive when his sedation was lessened.
“He seemed to follow what we were telling him,” he said. “Next time that we try to lessen his sedation I hope that we will be able to get in touch with him.”
He voiced optimism that the former president’s odds of pulling through were “good.”
Meanwhile ex-Labor MK Rafi Elul, a friend of Peres, told Ynet News the former president had seemed “a bit tired” but still “full of energy” when he met with him on Monday.
“He told us of his busy day, of his plans for tomorrow and for the next week,” he recalled.
All three of Peres’s children, Zvia, Yoni and Chemi, are at his hospital bedside, along with grandchildren and great grandchildren.
After feeling unwell during lunch on Tuesday, Peres was rushed to the hospital, which lies in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, for medical tests. Initial blood tests revealed a chemical imbalance. As he received further tests, at around 7 p.m. aides and a nurse attending to him noticed a deterioration in his usually gregarious interaction with those around him.
He said his head hurt, causing the medical team to suspect a stroke. He was given a CT scan at 8 p.m. that confirmed internal bleeding in the brain.
The former president never lost consciousness, his spokeswoman Ayelet Frisch told reporters. He was only sedated and intubated after the stroke was discovered, as doctors raced to stem the bleeding.
Peres’s son Chemi confirmed Tuesday night that his father was in serious condition after suffering a stroke, asked for prayers on his behalf and said the coming few hours would be critical.
Addressing a flock of journalists from around the world gathered outside the Sheba Medical Center, Chemi Peres paid tribute to the medical team treating the former president and said “difficult decisions” would have to be taken in the coming hours.
“There will come a time when we will need to take some decisions. Everything is dependent on how things develop and we don’t know more than that at present,” he said.
Media vans and journalists from Israeli outlets, as well as foreign ones, were still parked outside the hospital at daybreak Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Israel’s chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau called on the public to pray for his recovery, noting his ritual Jewish name used in traditional prayers is Shimon ben Sarah.
The head of Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Yitzhak Kreiss, said late Tuesday that Peres had suffered “a stroke with significant bleeding [in the brain], he underwent treatment, and is now sedated and intubated in intensive care. We are monitoring him constantly and in the coming hours will have a reassessment of the situation.”
A little after midnight, a second doctor at the hospital, Shlomi Matetzky, who was directly treating Peres in intensive care, said the bleeding in his brain had been stopped, and that he was lightly sedated. He said Peres had regained limited consciousness and was responsive to simple instructions.
Matetsky ruled out any overnight surgery, saying his condition was too critical to be helped by an operation.
Peres’s son said the family was gathering at the hospital. “We are receiving a huge number of messages from Israel and abroad from all our friends who are surrounding us with love and care,” he added.
He stressed that “there was nothing more important to my father than Israel and its people. My father is one of a kind, I am praying for him and ask all those who pray to continue to pray with us. We thank everyone for your love and care.”
The “massive intracranial hemorrhage” occurred in the middle of a typically busy day for the nonagenarian, who turned 93 on August 2. In the morning, Peres filmed a video as part of a campaign to support local Israeli businesses in which he urged Israelis to buy domestic products. He then delivered a speech to a gathering of hi-tech executives in Tel Aviv. It was after this speech, during lunch, when he began to feel unwell, according to aides.
Messages of support and good wishes quickly flooded in from across the political spectrum.
“I am following with concern the updates from the hospital, and pray together with the entire country for my friend Shimon’s recovery,” said a statement from Reuven Rivlin, who in 2014 succeeded Peres as the president of Israel.
“Shimon, we love you and the whole country wishes you a speedy recovery,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also took to Twitter, urging Peres to “come back and make your wise, clear and realistic voice heard.”
Earlier this month, Peres underwent surgery to receive an artificial pacemaker, after he was diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm in July following a series of minor health scares.
The implant was recommended by Peres’s doctors, including his personal physician, Dr. Raphi Walden, after he was diagnosed in July with atrial fibrillation.
He suffered a mild heart attack in January and underwent a cardiac angioplasty to open a blocked artery. He had been hospitalized twice after suffering chest pains.
Peres, now retired, had a 55-year political career culminating in a term as Israel’s president from 2007 to 2014. He remains active through his nongovernmental Peres Center for Peace, which promotes coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
Considered the last surviving member of Israel’s founding fathers, he served as prime minister twice — from 1984 to 1986 as part of a rotational government, and for a few months in 1995 and 1996 after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. He spent most of his career in the Labor Party.