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Nelson Mandela Dies


Mandela talked in his autobiography of having a “history of high blood pressure.” In 1988, less than a month after his 70th birthday while held at Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, he described a bad cough that he couldn’t shake off. He was transferred to a nearby hospital where he had 2 liters of fluid removed from his chest and was diagnosed with the early stages of tuberculosis. The doctor agreed with Mandela that his damp cell probably contributed to the illness.

Six weeks after being admitted to the hospital, he was transferred to a clinic that had never before had a black patient. He said, “The clinic was extremely comfortable and for the first time I actually enjoyed a hospital convalescence.”


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.

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