Sunday, October 12, 2003

Former Gov. Breathitt critical; cause still unknown

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Former Kentucky Gov. Edward T. "Ned" Breathitt was in critical condition at a hospital Saturday evening after he collapsed during a speech at the University of Kentucky.

Breathitt, 78, was admitted to the intensive care unit of UK Medical Center, where he remains unconscious and is on a ventilator, according to a statement from Dr. John Gurley, Breathitt's cardiologist. Gurley said Breathitt underwent a heart catheterization that showed no evidence he had a heart attack.

"There is no evidence of head trauma, bleeding or stroke," Gurley said. "His heart rhythm and blood pressure are stable."

The hospital is "providing general supportive care and continuously monitoring his neurological status," he said.

Breathitt, a Hopkinsville native, was apparently a few minutes into his speech at Lexington Community College's volunteer appreciation dinner when he collapsed about 7:40 p.m. Friday. The dinner was held on the UK campus, at the E.S. Good Barn.

Don Mills, who was Breathitt's press secretary, said Breathitt's family told him he was not conscious when he was transported to the hospital.

Breathitt, a Democrat, is credited with supporting civil rights, strip-mining regulations and campaign finance legislation and boosting the state's education budget. He was governor from 1963 to 1967 and served three terms in the legislature.

Jim Kerley, president of Lexington Community College, sat with Breathitt, the keynote speaker, and others during the dinner Friday. Kerley didn't comment on Breathitt's condition following the collapse but said he was "upbeat and in tremendous spirits" beforehand.

Breathitt had spent the day with Mills at Keeneland racetrack.

Breathitt, without any notes, spoke to 150 people about his experiences with education at UK and the community college, he said.

"He spoke for about seven minutes, then he took a step back," Kerley said. "I thought he was just taking a deep breath or a pause. Then it was apparent something was wrong and he collapsed."

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