Political News

White House Keeps Details of Melania Trump’s Health Under Wraps

Posted May 18, 2018 8:54 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — This week, the first lady, Melania Trump, underwent a procedure for what the White House called a benign kidney condition. Four days into her recovery for the procedure, which experts say typically has a one-day recuperation period, there has been no update on the first lady’s condition.

The West Wing would not say whether she remained at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington. Neither would the East Wing. A spokesman with the Secret Service declined to confirm the first lady’s whereabouts. And the public affairs office at Walter Reed did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s recovery has been shrouded in secrecy by protective aides, citing patient privacy laws. But the silence comes amid an unusually long recovery period for a successful procedure that experts say is typically performed on a conscious patient and takes 45 to 90 minutes.

A timeline President Donald Trump gave for his wife’s recovery has also expired. On Tuesday, the president wrote on Twitter that Melania Trump would be home in “two or three days.” But Friday — the end of that timeline — Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, would not confirm whether Melania Trump had returned home or remained at Walter Reed.

“When I have something to tell you,” Grisham wrote in an email, “I will.”

Others who have spoken publicly about Trump’s health have followed the first lady’s lead on what to say, and nearly word for word: On Wednesday, a message posted to her Twitter account read, “I am feeling great & look forward to getting back home @WhiteHouse soon.”

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a close friend of the first lady’s, said in a text message the same day that Trump “is feeling great and looking forward to returning home” to the White House. She reiterated Trump’s request for privacy.

And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that “the first lady is doing great” when she was approached by reporters Friday and asked Trump’s whereabouts.

The facts, as provided by the White House, are these: On Monday, Trump underwent an embolization procedure, which is meant to cut off the blood supply that feeds the kidney. It is usually used to stop bleeding from a benign tumor or a small aneurysm, or to reverse the growth of such a tumor, according to specialists. The White House did not explain what led Trump to seek treatment or whether the “benign kidney condition” meant she had a benign tumor or something else.

The East Wing said in a statement after Trump’s procedure that it had been successful, with no complications. Dr. Kelvin Hong, the director of the Johns Hopkins Interventional Radiology Center, said that he would expect a short recovery period and a short time in the hospital after a complication-free procedure.

“Usually a one-night stay does more than enough,” Hong said, “and the next day the patient is discharged with oral analgesics or painkillers. It’s sort of unusual to keep someone longer.”

Hong said patients typically came in for the procedure after experiencing symptoms like blood in the urine or back or stomach pain. Once patients were discharged, Hong said, he typically would not see them for another month.

At this point in Trump’s recovery, specialists say it is hard to know why she would remain in the hospital for the better part of a week. It is possible that a patient could stay longer after an embolization procedure if there were underlying medical conditions, or if an infection, pain or discomfort developed afterward, Dr. Joseph A. Vassalotti, the chief medical officer at the National Kidney Foundation, said.

“I would say that I hope that when she is ready she’ll come out and tell the American public about what condition she has and what happened,” Vassalotti said.

Given Trump’s desire to keep her private life private, that is probably unlikely. The first lady’s team kept her procedure, and details about when she actually entered Walter Reed, under lockdown. White House aides who were near Trump wore blue scrubs in the hours immediately after the procedure, according to a person who saw several of the first lady’s aides at Walter Reed.

Wearing scrubs, Hong said, would be unnecessary for people interacting with a patient who had undergone an embolization procedure.

The president visited his wife for the first three days of her stay at Walter Reed, stopping Wednesday for a photo op with wounded soldiers. But Thursday, the White House offered no further details on Melania Trump’s health, and her husband did not visit. According to a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail the president’s travel plans, a weekend trip to Camp David had been canceled and the president had plans to stay in Washington.

Since moving to Washington with the couple’s 12-year-old son, Barron, last year, Melania Trump has made it clear that his privacy is of paramount importance, and hers nearly as important. It is a directive her small team of 10 aides has taken seriously, even as Trump’s popularity has surged amid a series of high-profile appearances, including a state dinner with France and the launch of Be Best, her official platform that focuses on teaching kindness to children.