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Nelson Mandela Dies

Cataracts

In 1994, the year he became president, Mandela underwent an operation to remove a cataract. Cataracts are the clouding of the normally clear lens portion of the eye.

Mandela and other political prisoners on Robben Island were forced to break limestone rocks in a quarry without protective eyewear. On their release, an ophthalmologist examined the prisoners and found that many had cataracts due to damage caused by light and lime dust.

Mandela’s tear glands were burned by the alkaline nature of the limestone, which left his eyes dry and prone to irritation. This made the removal of his cataract more difficult.

Prostate Problems

In 1985, while in prison, Mandela underwent surgery for an enlarged prostate gland. He also had some tumors removed, which proved benign.

But in 2001 routine checks of his health led to a decision to biopsy the prostate gland, which revealed the presence of a microscopic cancer within the prostate.

He didn’t undergo surgery or require chemotherapy, but he did successfully undergo a 7-week course of radiation.

More Recent Health Scares

In January 2011, aged 92, he spent two nights in a hospital in Johannesburg being treated for what was later revealed to be an acute respiratory infection. Before this information became known, the gap was filled with claims that he was in a coma or had a collapsed lung.

Just over a year later, at the end of February 2012, Mandela was again admitted to the hospital. This was a planned admission for an exploratory laparoscopy (in which a tiny camera is inserted into the abdomen) to try to determine the cause of a "longstanding abdominal complaint." 

This time there were frequent news updates about Mandela during his overnight stay. He was sent home after the doctors concluded "the diagnostic procedure he underwent did not indicate anything seriously wrong with him."

In December 2012 he again spent time in the hospital. Tests revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection and the presence of gallstones. These are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. Mandela underwent a successful operation to have the gallstones removed. After more than 2 weeks he returned to his home in Johannesburg.

In late March/early April this year, the increasingly frail Mandela was back in the hospital for 10 days. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, an infection in the lungs, which can make it difficult for oxygen to reach the blood.

He was again admitted to the hospital in the early hours of June 8 when his condition was initially described, for the first time, as serious but stable. He was treated for a lung infection and left the hospital after 3 months.

From September until his death, he received medical treatment at home.

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