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Ford Returns Home

Gerald Ford
AP
Former President Ford has returned to his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., appearing fully recovered from a small stroke he suffered last week at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Accompanied by his wife, Betty, and daughter, Susan, the 87-year-old former president stepped off a private jet at Palm Springs Airport late Wednesday. He waved to a small crowd of admirers before getting into a waiting car for the short ride home.

His arrival occurred on the 26th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and Mr. Ford took over as the nation's 38th chief executive.

Mr. Ford could have gone to his summer home in Beaver Creek, Colo., and avoided the triple-digit heat here, but Spokeswoman Penny Circle said the former president came to Rancho Mirage to be near his primary doctors.

"They need to stabilize him on his medication and the doctors are five minutes away here in the desert," she said.

Dr. Robert Schwartzman, the Philadelphia hospital's chief of neurology, accompanied Ford on the flight to California. Dr. Alan Kiselstein, Ford's physician in Rancho Mirage, was waiting to meet them.

"We're still very optimistic about a full recovery," Kiselstein said.

Doctors at the Philadelphia hospital where he was treated said the former president is in excellent health and his prognosis is good. He does, however, have a 5 percent to 10 percent increased risk of having another stroke, said Dr. Carole Thomas, a neurologist.

"He feels he is 95 percent back to normal and is looking forward to getting home and back to his life," Thomas said.

Ford will have to cut back on his daily routine of swimming while he remains on a blood-thinning drug indefinitely and on antibiotics for the tongue infection.

Mr. Ford, who was admitted to the Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia on Aug. 2 after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery Saturday for the abscess on his tongue, thanked hospital staff members.

"They did a super job. ... We have good memories. Thank you very, very much," he said.

Before his release, doctors had said Mr. Ford was in good condition, eating and walking normally. His wife, Betty, and daughter Susan had been at the hospital with him for several days.

Doctors had been treating him with coumadin, a blood-thinning medication, and with two antibiotics - clindamycin and levofloxacin - for the abscess.

Mr. Ford, America's 38th president, was stricken while attending the convention, where the Republicans formally nominated their presidential candidate, George W. Bush.

On his initial hospital visit, he complained of facial pain and was diagnosed as having a sinus condition. He refused doctors' recommendation that he take a CT scan and was sent home with antibiotics.

Hours later, he returned and was admitted with slurred speech and difficulties with balance. Tests confirmed a small stroke at the bae of the brain, doctors said.

Mr. Ford had complained of a swollen tongue since before his trip to Philadelphia. Doctors said the swelling was the result of a rare bacterial infection known as actinomycosis.