Pope being fed through nasal tube
Pope John Paul is being fed through a nasal tube to boost his strength, the Vatican said Wednesday, casting a dramatic new light on the Pontiff's struggle to recover from throat surgery.
Doctors inserted the tube after the 84-year-old Pope failed in efforts to speak in public for the second time in four days. He has not been heard in public since an emergency operation on Feb. 24 inserted a tube into his windpipe to help him breathe.
"To improve his caloric intake and promote an efficient recovery of his strength, nutrition via the positioning of a nasal-gastric tube has begun," he said in a statement.
The Pope had appeared briefly at his window overlooking St Peter's Square on the day he normally holds a general audience. Looking weak but determined, he tried speak into a microphone but, as on Easter Sunday four days ago, could produce no words.
He has difficulty swallowing because he suffers from Parkinson's disease, which limits muscle movement. He already has a tube to allow air into his windpipe and will now, at least temporarily, have one carrying liquid nourishment in his nose.
A Vatican official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the tube was not the only way the Pope was being fed, indicating that he was still taking at least some food by mouth.
Italian media have said doctors were considering a new operation to place a feeding tube directly into his stomach, but Wednesday's statement appeared to dismiss that option for now.
The official said there were no immediate plans to take the Pope back to hospital, saying that would be up to his doctors
Medical experts said a tube directly into the digestive system via the nose is only a temporary solution. If a patient cannot eat normally after that, doctors may opt for the more permanent feeding tube directly into the stomach.
"WORK GOES ON"
The Vatican statement seemed at pains to stress the Pope was still in charge despite all the difficulties with his convalescence, which it called "slow and progressive."
The statement said the Pope was spending "many hours of the day" in an armchair, celebrating Mass in his private chapel, and was in "working contact with his aides, directly following the activity of the Holy See and the Church."
Before the medical bulletin, he was rolled to his window over St Peter's Square and appeared to be listening attentively as priests read greetings several languages.
Another priest then read a blessing for him as the Pope, wearing his traditional white cassock, simultaneously moved his hand in the sign of the cross in the direction of the crowd.
One of his priest secretaries then put a microphone next to the Pope's mouth. He made some sounds in what appeared to be an attempt to say a three-syllable word. But he was unable to pronounce anything and the aide quickly removed the microphone.
The Pope remained at the window for about four minutes. He was then wheeled away and the curtain was drawn.
"This is so emotional," said Luigi Marcucci, 23-year-old Italian among several hundred people in the square.
"But it is also an invitation to all those of us who have small daily problems to carry on," he said.
"This man really believes in what he is doing and he is not going to give up just because he is weak."