Mild stroke has left Lady Bird Johnson unable to speak, her physician says

Sunday, May 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN (AP) _ Lady Bird Johnson can understand things people say to her, but is unable to speak because of a mild stroke, her doctor said Sunday.

The 89-year-old former first lady was hospitalized Thursday after she awoke from a nap at her home and had trouble speaking and swallowing medication. It's too soon to say when she might be released, the doctor said.

Johnson suffered damage to a small area on the left side of her brain, ``but unfortunately, it's in a very critical area of the brain,'' Dr. Marci Roy said. ``She understands everything that is being spoken to her, but she cannot respond.''

Johnson's daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, said well wishes have included phone calls to the family from former first lady Betty Ford and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

``My mother is handling it as she has all of her life, with courage and grace, wit and wisdom and especially good humor,'' Luci Johnson said.

Seton Medical Center spokeswoman Pam Crowther said cards, flowers or donations should be sent to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library at the University of Texas.

Johnson was admitted to the same hospital in 1999 after fainting at her home. In 1993, she suffered what was described as a minor stroke.

Earlier, she had transferred leadership duties of the family's broadcasting business, the LBJ Holding Co., to her daughter. Former President Johnson died in 1973.