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Crucial day for stricken Maradona

Doctors will today attempt to heal the soccer legend's lung infections and take him off a respirator.
PTI | By Frederic Garlan (AFP), Buenos Aires
UPDATED ON APR 21, 2004 06:20 PM IST

Doctors treating sick football legend Diego Maradona have said that Wednesday would be crucial for his survival chances as they attempted to heal his lung infections and take him off a respirator.

The 43-year World Cup winner has been in hospital fighting for his life since Sunday when he was stricken with severe heart and breathing problems.

Personal doctor Alfredo Cahe said his condition has been gradually improving through Monday and Tuesday although he was still seriously ill and hooked to a respirator to allow him to breathe properly.

"The priority now is to treat his lungs which became infected when he swallowed his own vomit on Sunday," a medical source told the sports paper Ole.

"Once the infection is under control, the aim will be to take him off the respirator. That process will take a whole day," the source said.

"When the oxygen levels in his blood stream are back to normal the doctors will have him partly on the machine and partly breathing normally. If all goes according to plan, they will then unhook him completely."

Maradona, whose glittering football career between 1975 and 1997 made him one of the most famous sportsmen in the world has a history of cocaine use and his weight has ballooned in recent years.

He took refuge under the eye of Fidel Castro in Cuba for some time, but his health problems appear to re-emerge each time he heads home to Buenos Aires where he is regarded as little short of a living god.

It was shortly after watching his old side Boca Juniors playing in the Argentine capital on Sunday that he was taken ill and rushed to hospital where he was said to be between life and death with a severely weakened heart, badly-infected lungs and soaring blood pressure.

Maradona's illness has provoked a wave of sympathy from him in Argentina where he is still hugely propular despite all the controversies that have tarnished his name.

Thousands of fans have posted vigil outside the private clinic where he is being treated chanting his name and exhibiting pictures of the player in his prime and religious icons.

With journalists, photographers and curious tourists all adding to the swarm of activity outside the building, hospital officials have been forced to call for quiet and respect for all the other patients being treated.

Ole newspaper reported that a hospital employee had been caught red-handed late Tuesday attempting to take a bedside photograph of the bloated former star, to sell to newspapers.

Medical technician Horacio Jorge Fernandez tried to get pictures of Maradona hooked up to his respirator in intensive care by using a mobile telephone equipped with a camara.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner was being kept informed round-the-clock on Maradona's condition, his spokesman said.

Kirchner said the player had "brought tears of joy to we Argentinians" by his genius on the football field.

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