Maradona off respirator, still in intensive care

Updated on Apr 24, 2004 01:20 PM IST

Diego Maradona was taken off an artificial respirator on Friday but remained in intensive care five days after being rushed to hospital with a swollen heart and breathing problems, a hospital statement said.

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PTI | ByBrian Homewood (Reuters), Buenos Aires

Diego Maradona was taken off an artificial respirator on Friday but remained in intensive care five days after being rushed to hospital with a swollen heart and breathing problems, a hospital statement said.

The hospital, where a group of fans kept up their vigil in the street outside, also said the former Argentina World Cup winner`s pneumonia was improving, though he is still taking drugs to keep his heart and blood circulation stable.

"Shortly after midday (1500gmt), the mechanical respiratory assistance was suspended and the tube could be taken out," said the statement issued by the Suizo-Argentino clinic.

It added that Maradona was still receiving oxygen treatment with a mask.

"The ventilatory function is good at the moment," the statement said.

Maradona, who has put on so much weight that he is scarcely recognisable from his playing days, arrived in Argentina last month from Cuba, where he has spent the last three years undergoing a drugs rehabilitation programme.

He was rushed to hospital on Sunday in a serious, feverish condition, shortly after watching his favourite team Boca Juniors play Nueva Chicago and then going to a traditional Argentine barbecue.

His doctor Alfredo Cahe has rubbished suggestions that drugs use might have been behind Maradona`s illness.

The 43-year-old has also developed pneumonia, which the hospital said is easing.

"The pneumonia is evolving favourably .... although it remains serious," the statement said.

"He continues to require drugs to keep the cardiovascular function stabilised.

"He`s also receiving antibiotics and sedatives, the latter in smaller doses than when he arrived."

Maradona`s plight has moved the South American country, where his exploits on the field are still fondly remembered, particularly the 1986 World Cup when he almost single-handedly led an otherwise unremarkable team to the title.

The daily arrival of the medical bulletin has become a mid-day ritual in front of the hospital, with media scrambling desperately for copies handed out by two hospital workers and onlookers attempting to take copies as souvenirs.

Doctors have not been available to answer questions since Cahe appeared on Tuesday.

The player`s admirers have lit candles and plastered tributes to him on the walls of the clinic, turning the pavement in front into something resembling a shrine.

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