MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Literally, a pain in the neck sent former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City on Thursday morning.
In a medical bulletin late Thursday afternoon, doctors confirmed Arroyo's hospitalization.
Lead attending physician Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes said Arroyo "came to the hospital at around 6:30 this morning due to severe pain in the neck area. After a series of diagnostic procedures, Congresswoman Arroyo was diagnosed to have cervical spondylotic radiculopathy C3-C6 secondary to degenerated discs and osteophytes with severe neural narrowing at C3 C4 C5 C6 left. Retrolisthesis C4 C5 and C5, C6 or pinched nerve in the cervical spine."
Cervantes further said that "this disease is a degenerative condition which is a recurring problem."
She said "right now she is being managed conservatively with pain medications, wearing of cervical collar and physical therapy. Hopefully, she will respond to this conservative treatment. We expect to discharge her in a few days."
While Cervantes read the statement, the medical briefing had the names of Cervantes, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mario Ver and chief medical officer Dr. Joven Cuanang.
In the question and answer portion after the briefing, Cervantes said the pain is in the left nape area.
Cervantes said Arroyo was asleep when she felt pain this morning.
However, Arroyo had a busy schedule Wednesday that involved a lot of sitting.
Arroyo was at the launching of the anniversary rites for the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. "However this morning... she woke up with a pain it was so severe she decided to go to the hospital. We saw she had difficulty ambulating and mobilizing herself."
Cuanang immediately dispelled notions this is a life-threatening condition. Cuanang says this is not a new problem to Arroyo, revealing that she had this even during her presidency.
Cuanang explained, "kaya lang ngayon medyo severe pain niya … naipitan siya ng nerve. May problema kasi sa disc cushioning between vertebra, nagdegenerate, naipit yung nerve. Pag naipit yung nerve, it will reflect as pain and spasm of the muscles. Ganun nangyari sa kaniya."
No surgery needed
Cuanang said no surgery is needed now, adding that their main concern now as her doctors "is to make sure she's comfortable kaya she's on pain medication. Kaninang tanghali, after giving medications, she's more comfortable. Iniiwasan namin na siyang gumagalaw muna.”
He further explained Arroyo's condition, saying what happened is that the cushion between the verterba degenerated, causing a nerve to jut out. "When we say degeneration … nangyari di na effective cushion in between vertebra… medyo umusli (iyung) nerve."
Cuanang sheepishly conceded, and with some discomfort, that it's age related. “Meron din ako niyan." Cuanang said it's common for people 50 years old and above. Cervantes said, "related with increase in age."
He said they have required Arroyo to stay in bed but she's allowed to sit.
He characterizes her condition as "medyo slipped disc pero sa leeg di sa baba."
Cuanang indeicated that it may be related to her constant travel. "Kung minsan dahil sa natatagtag ka kabyahe. She's very disciplined naman, she goes around, she always wears a collar."
Cuanang said Arroyo's pain has been reduced and she will be monitored for 48 hours. He said when Arroyo came in, she rated her pain as an 8 in a scale of 1 to 10. After medication it went down to a 3.
Can lead to paralysis
Cuanang, however, clarified that if not attended to properly, the disease can lead to paralysis. "If it's not attended properly ... naiipit ang nerve, namamatay nerve, spinal cord affected or apektado lahat ng function pwede ka maparalyze. That's the worst scenario kung naipit spinal cord whole part of body from neck and down... loses sensation, sometimes lose control of urination and bowel movements. When things like that happen, that's when we start thinking about doing surgery. Kung hindi masyado, if pain persists, we might be able to go ahead. At this particular point, wala."
Cuanang said Arroyo even had therapy while she was still at the Palace. He said Arroyo's medication is composed of muscle relaxants.
Cuanang said sometimes, Arroyo's pain radiates all the way to her arms.
He added that to avoid the condition, one must “protect yourself against injury. Sometimes it’s a degenerative process." Cuanang added that the condition may be avoided by taking lots of calcium.
Arroyo's spokesman, Elena Bautista-Horn, thanked those who inquired and sent messages of concern and support, but she appealed for people to give Arroyo time to rest.
Horn maintained that even with the lower public office of congresswoman, Arroyo continues to maintain a busy schedule. "Siguro po bigyan natin ng konting panahon ang dating pangulo na magpahinga … dahil schedule niya di nagla-lighten kahit medyo konti na responsiblidad bilang congresswoman. Sana ibalato natin konting pahinga para sa kaniya. Salamat sa lahat ng tumawag nag-text. I have not talked to her. I'm allowing her to have the rest she deserves."
Not related to plunder case
She dispelled notions the hospitalization had anything to do with the plunder case field against Arroyo. "Hindi naman nakakasira ng buto siguro iyun. It's cervical, calcium-related ."
Horn said former first gentleman Mike Arroyo brought his wife to the hospital, while daughter Luli Arroyo-Bernas visited her in the morning.
Spotted entering the hospital in the afternoon were Horn's husband Holger and former Trade Secretary Peter Favila.
Arroyo's younger son, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo, his wife Kakai Manotok-Arroyo, and children Eva Victoria and Diggy visited them in the afternoon.
Dato thanked everyone sending messages of support for his mom. He hopes that she gets well soon.
Dato revealed that as of the time they left the hospital, his mom was still under pain management. She felt better at seeing her grandchildren Diggy and Evie, who was dressed in her school uniform.
Dato said it's just his family who was in the hospital. The former first gentleman is in his office. Dato was accompanied by wike Kakai Manotok-Arroyo.
Horn recalled for the media Arroyo's schedule in the days before her hospitalization. Arroyo went to Hong Kong with her bloc of political allies from Central Luzon, then proceeded to check on preparations in her home district for the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
“She's been very busy as early as 6 a.m. Biyahe na sa Pampanga, sunod-sunod meeting inikot niya distrito."
In April, Arroyo told ABS-CBN News in an exclusive interview that she had adjusted to her new life. "Hindi naman ako na-culture shock. Mas tahimik ang buhay ko pero meron naman rin akong public life. And you don't want a back-breaking schedule. To begin with, it's just an obligation."
As congresswoman of Pampanga, she moved her office to Batasan Pambansa, just a few minutes away from her house. "Malapit lang ang Congress dito at saka nung ako’y Pangulo, narami na akong inayos sa banda rito. Mas maikli biyahe papuntang Congress lalo na pag natapos yung overpass na ginagawa ko noon."
While her previous job literally took her places, now she only has one place to attend to, aside from Batasan Pambansa. That's how her day looks now. “Depende kasi kung Monday to Wednesday. Kung session day, Congress ang pinupuntahan ko. Pag Thursday to Friday, distrito ang pinupuntahan ko. Pag Saturday-Sunday, private time. Depende kasi pag private time, you don't have to program it. Iyun ang isang kaibahan pagka naging Pangulo at hindi ka Pangulo. Pag Pangulo ka, nakaprogram lahat kahit private time."