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President’s Baby Rallies

Aug. 8, 1963 - At the Boston Children’s Medical Center tonight, President Kennedy’s one-day-old son rallied after a crisis this afternoon in which he suffered increasing breathing problems. (Pictured below is the President earlier today at the medical center.) Young Patrick Bouvier Kennedy showed an “immediate improvement” after he was placed in a submarine-like high-pressure chamber which forced oxygen into his tiny lungs. The baby began breathing with less effort, and his pulse and respiration went down after he entered the breathing device. Tonight, doctors decided to keep the infant in the pressure chamber at least until tomorrow, and President Kennedy decided to spend the night at the hospital. Five-man medical teams worked in relays inside the chamber, rotating every two hours. Press Secretary Pierre Salinger described the white-painted chamber as similar in construction to a submarine, with air locks and pressure doors. It is 31 feet long, 8 feet in diameter, and has an inner shell almost the same size. Salinger said the chamber had “been used during the last year in a number of successful cases involving babies who had a lack of oxygen.” However, the Press Secretary pointed out that Patrick is suffering from a lung ailment and that all the other babies who have been treated in the chamber have had heart problems. Thus, Salinger said, there is no precedent. Earlier, the President telephoned Mrs. Kennedy, who is recovering from the Caesarean delivery at Otis Air Force Base Hospital, and told her that the baby’s condition was “slightly improved.” The child developed the breathing problems shortly after birth at the hospital on Cape Cod yesterday. Physicians described it as an idiopathic respiratory distress syndrome. This meant the baby’s lungs had not developed sufficiently to function properly.


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