The Daily Telegraph
He’s back, insist doctors as concerns persist
President’s medical team may have been overzealous when treating him, experts suggest after fast recovery
FOR the last three days, they have come under intense public scrutiny and pressure as they treat the world’s most powerful patient.
But yesterday, Sean P Conley, Donald Trump’s do c t o r, a nd hi s team announced the president’s imminent discharge from hospital with an optimistic note, declaring with a smile: “He’s back.”
The US president had indicated he was regaining his strength on Sunday, when he emerged from his hospital suite to greet his cheering fans with a drive-by, giving two thumbs up and waving to those gathered outside.
However, the sequence of events leading to his discharge prompted questions about whether the president is making demands of his medical team for political rather than health reasons.
Earlier on Sunday, the severity of Mr Trump’s condition in the early days of his diagnosis was finally laid bare.
It emerged that the president’s blood oxygen levels had dropped so low that he was hooked up to oxygen for about an hour, with his vital signs appearing “very concerning” to his doctors.
Mr Trump was then given dexamethasone, a steroid treatment that the
World Health Organisation recommends is used only for patients with “severe and critical Covid-19”.
Mr Trump was also given a remdesivir and synthetic antibody cocktail as part of the aggressive course of experimental treatments.
The theme that has emerged over the last few days is of a president determined to take charge both of his public image and of his medical care.
After hearing that the president received a “cocktail of drugs”, health experts suggested his condition could be more serious than the doctors had indicated, or that a bullish Mr Trump was demanding the intense treatment regardless of the risks.
Some medics raised the possibility that the president’s doctors had fallen victim to so- called “VIP syndrome”, where medics can become overzealous in treating famous patients or capitulate to their requests.
Mr Trump’s physician has already indicated that the president is not a submissive patient, revealing over the weekend that “he was fairly adamant that he didn’t need” oxygen, but was eventually forced to concede.
“Suddenly they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him,” Dr Thomas Mcginn, physician-in-chief at Northwell Health told The New York Times. “Is he sicker than we’re hearing, or are they being overly aggressive because he is the president, in a way that could be potentially harmful?”
The news that Mr Trump would be discharged from hospital yesterday also caused alarm, with some of the president’s staff worried that a premature return to the White House could precipitate a second hospital trip. The picture has become even more complicated due to the confused briefings from Mr Trump’s medical team, during which doctors appeared to be trying to hide certain pieces of evidence.
Dr Conley repeatedly refused to state whether Mr Trump had been given oxygen during a briefing on Saturday. He later admitted that he had given a rosy impression of the president’s health to reflect his and Mr Trump’s “upbeat attitude”. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” he said on Sunday.
In between these two updates, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was caught on camera briefing journalists that the president’s vitals were in fact “very concerning”. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” he told them.
Mr Trump, watching the coverage of his illness unfold on TV from his hospital suite, was reportedly furious. Shortly afterwards, he released a four-minute video on Twitter declaring that he was “feeling much better” and would “be back soon”. The White House also released a string of pictures purporting to show Mr Trump busy working from his presidential suite in Walter Reed.
There were even reports that Mr Trump, who is known to dislike hospitals, was pushing to be discharged on Sunday, leading aides to suggest the drive-by outside the hospital in the hope of appeasing him.
Mr Trump’s critics alleged that he had risked the lives of his secret service agents by carrying out the “publicity stunt” drive-by with his supporters.
“That should never have happened,” one secret service agent allocated to the president and his family told CNN, adding: “We’re not disposable.”
Members of the medical community also pointed out that Mr Trump’s outing broke his own government’s public health guidelines requiring coronavirus patients to isolate.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” said James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre commanded by Trump.”
Mr Trump tweeted yesterday: “It is reported that the media i s upset because I got into a secure vehicle to say thank you to the many fans and supporters who were standing outside of the hospital for many hours, and even days, to pay their respect to their president. If I didn’t do it, media would say RUDE!!!”
Yesterday morning, the White House released more pictures of the president, this time on a conference call with his secretary of state and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Underscoring the image of a president hard at work was the barrage of tweets Mr Trump sent from his hospital suite about everything from Space Force to healthcare, all urging Americans to back him in the voting booths.
Also yesterday, Mr Trump’s national s ecurity adviser Robert O’brien announced that face coverings were now mandatory for all his staff.
It followed criticism from within the White House over a “ridiculous” lack of communication about safety protocol despite the high number of coronavirus cases emerging within the building.
Staff within the West Wing revealed that they were unsure about whether to report to work, given that at least 13 members of Mr Trump’s inner circle have contracted the virus.
Kayleigh Mcenany, the White House press secretary, said yesterday that she has tested positive for the virus. Ms Mcenany, who briefed journalists on Sunday without a face mask, said she was not showing any symptoms and would continue to carry out her duties while i solating at home. Briefing reporters, Dr Conley conceded that the president ”may not be out of the woods yet”, but he had deemed it safe for him to return to the White House. Mr Trump’s message to the public was more forthright: “Feeling really good!” he