Health and Medical History of President

Theodore Roosevelt

President #26
Lived: 1858-1919 Served: 1901-1909

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

"Death had to take him sleeping. For if Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight."
-- Thomas Marshall 7a

UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Maladies and Conditions

asthma

myopia
"without his glasses his vision was so bad that he couldn't recognize his own sons" 7b.

polo unconsciousness
A few episodes of unconsciousness as a result of playing polo. 1a.

tiring campaign
Roosevelt ran for President in 1912, as a third-party candidate. There were suspicions
that the strain of the campaign was proving too much for Roosevelt. His voice was bothering him seriously. Reports reached the Bull Moose headquarters that he was losing his grip, that he was repeating himself disastrously. He was forced to cancel two addresses scheduled for the Middle West because of his throat. The disability was bad enough to raise the possibility that he could speak no more. 9a
Roosevelt did not like to speak in the open air, for it put too much of a strain on his voice. 4a

shot at
During a stop in Milwaukee on his 1912 "Bull Moose" campaign for the presidency, Roosevelt was shot at close range by John Schrank, a psychotic New York saloonkeeper. Schrank had his .38 caliber pistol aimed at Roosevelt's head, but a bystander saw the gun and deflected Schrank's arm just as the trigger was pulled. Roosevelt did not realize he was hit until someone noticed a hole in his overcoat. When Roosevelt reached inside his coat, he found blood on his fingers.

Roosevelt was extremely lucky. He had the manuscript of a long, 50-page speech in his coat pocket, folded in two, and the bullet was no doubt slowed as it passed through it. He also had a steel spectacle case in his pocket, and the bullet traversed this, too, before entering Roosevelt's chest near the right nipple. Thus, one could say that Roosevelt's long-windedness and myopia saved his life! MORE

Although the bullet traveled superiorly and medially for about 3 inches after breaking the skin, it lodged in the chest wall, without entering the pleural space. Roosevelt was examined in a Milwaukee hospital MORE, (where he reluctantly allowed the surgeons to administer an injection of tetanus anti-toxin 7c), and then was observed for 8 days in a Chicago hospital. He was discharged on October 23, 1912 -- only a few days before the election. The bullet had effectively stopped Roosevelt's campaign. He finished second to Woodrow Wilson, but ahead of the incumbent President, William Howard Taft. The bullet was never removed, and caused no difficulty after the wound healed. 5

The details of the assassination attempt and its aftermath are described in 4b.


snored
Roosevelt reporetdly snored so loudly in a hospital that complaints were filed by almost every patient in the wing where he was recuperating 2. Comment: I have no hard evidence to support the reasonable supposition that this incident occurred during his recovery from the assassination attempt in 1912. Given Roosevelt's obesity in later life, snoring would not be surprising.

Loud snoring raises the possibility of sleep apnea. Hypersomnolence would be an additional sign of sleep apnea. Was Roosevelt hypersomnolent? During his Presidency, at least, he was not. The White House usher observed 6a:

President Roosevelt slept well at night, but never in the day. He liked to read in the evening after all was quiet. The usual retiring hour was about ten-thirty, but it was always with difficulty that the President was persuaded to turn in at that time. He would promise to come along in a minute, but would immediately become absorbed in a book or magazine and it was generally after much effort and much persuasion that he would finally turn in for the night. Mrs. Roosevelt would call and call. The sound of her voice calling "The-o-dore!" is well remembered by all the older employees. She often appealed to me to go to the President and "see if you cannot persuade him to come to bed." No matter how late he sat up, he always arose at the same time in the morning and always appeared refreshed and hearty.
Nor did Roosevelt show signs of excessive daytime somnolence on the campaign trail in 1912. While stumping in Milwaukee, one of Roosevelt's intimates wrote: "We had a few minutes before dinner, and the Colonel took a little nap sitting in a rocking-chair in his room. It was the only time, in all the campaign trips I made with him, that I ever saw him sleep before bedtime." 4c

obese?
In 1912, Roosevelt's campaign manager wrote: "We usually had our meals together in the dining-car. He was an eager and valiant trencherman, and I saw how it was that he had more than two inches of flesh and fat over his ribs for the lunatic's bullet to go through. He drank great quantities of milk, but not much of anything else. I have seen him eat a whole chicken and drink four large glasses of milk at one meal, and chicken and milk were by no means the only things served" 4d. By April 1915, ex-President Taft noticed that Roosevelt did not "have as good color as he used to have," that his face seemed "fatter and flabbier," that he looked "a bit coarser" 7d.

blind in one eye
9b Probably the result of a White House boxing match 12a. MORE

otitis media & thigh abscess
In 1918, as a result of a throat infection, Roosevelt developed "bilateral acute otitis media, inflammatory rheumatism, and abscess of the thigh." Both eardrums were pierced, and surgery was performed on his thigh. 7e 10a.

deaf in left ear
As a result of the otitis media, he lost his hearing in the left ear 7e 9b.

The poet Edgar Lee Masters vividly described Roosevelt's health in later years MORE.


trouble sleeping
Even as President, Roosevelt had no trouble sleeping. But during World War I, all four of Roosevelt's sons were in the Army in Europe 7f. TR now admitted "I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering if the boys are all right, and thinking how I could tell their mother if anything happened" 7g. The youngest son, Quentin, a pilot, was killed in action in July 1918. 7g. TR's eldest son, Theodore, was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II for his actions on Normandy Beach on D-Day.

chief characteristics
"His chief characteristics were vision, courage, decision, instant readiness for action, the simplest honesty and the most wholesome sanity. His mental engine ran at a higher speed than that of any other man I have ever known. His foresight was uncanny. His sympathy was so quick, his emotion so intensely human, that he penetrated the feelings of others often as if by magic." 4e

? infection
"An infection picked up in South America still poisoned his blood. He was, in that summer of 1918, close to the end of his stormy trail." 9b

died in his sleep
The January 1919 New York Times obituary gives many details 13.

Had Roosevelt not died at the young age of 60, it is quite likely that he would have been elected President in 1920. At the very least, "He would not need to lift a finger this time [as opposed to 1912], and the [Republican presidential] nomination would still be his" 11a.

Interestingly, Harding might have been Roosevelt's Vice President [Ibid.]. If Roosevelt had lived, say, three years longer, and Harding still had died in 1923, then the Secretary of State would have succeeded to the Presidency under the law then in effect.

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Cited Resources
  1. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.0195029151 Libraries 80-27092. ap. 201
  2. Boulware MH. Snoring: New Answers to an Old Problem. Rockaway, NJ: American Faculty Press, 1974. Libraries.
    Comment: Cited by: Fairbanks DNF. Snoring: an overview with historical perspectives. Pages 1-16 in: Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. 2nd ed. Fairbanks, David N. F. and Fujita, Shiro (eds.). NY: Raven Press, 1994.
  3. Bromley, Michael L. William Howard Taft and the First Motoring Presidency. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2003.0786414758 Libraries 2003008595. ap. 72 bp. 16
  4. Davis, Oscar King. Released for Publication: Some Inside Political History of Theodore Roosevelt and his Times 1898-1918. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925. Libraries. app. 216, 356, 367 bpp. 374-393, 398 cp. 373 dp. 429 ep. 458 fp. 303 gp. 434
  5. Foley, WJ. A bullet and a Bull Moose. JAMA. 1969;209:2035-2038. Pubmed 4897364.
  6. Hoover, Irwin Hood (Ike). 42 Years in the White House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934. Libraries. ap. 270
    Comment: The Library of Congress contains more of Hoover's first-hand recollections of eight presidents.
  7. Manners, William. TR and Will: A Friendship that Split the Republican Party. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1969. Libraries 69-14838. app. 310. Marshall was Wilson's Vice-President and is best known for his remark: "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." bp. 8 cp. 286 dp. 295 ep. 303 fp. 300 gp. 306
  8. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (ed). Burke's Presidential Families of the United States of America. 2nd ed. London: Burke's Peerage Limited, 1981.0850110335 Libraries. ap. 184 bpp. 411, 495
    Comment: Enumerates the ancestors and descendants of American presidents up through Ronald Reagan.
  9. Pringle, Henry F. The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1939. Libraries. ap. 836 bp. 912
  10. Ross, Ishbel. An American Family: The Tafts - 1678 to 1964. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Co., 1964. Libraries 64-23540. ap. 308
  11. Russell, Francis. The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Libraries 68-29916. ap. 311
  12. Smith, Ira R. T.; Morris, Joe Alex. "Dear Mr. President:" The Story of Fifty Years in the White House Mail Room. New York: Julian Messner, 1949. Libraries. ap. 52
    Comment: Ira Smith was a peppery fellow who ran the White House mail room from 1897 to 1948. He started working during the administration of William McKinley and was the only mail room staffer until the volume of mail made it necessary to hire help during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.
  13. Web page: http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/NYTobit.htm
Other Resources
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