Mother Teresa Displays Determination to Conquer Life-Threatening Illness

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although she remains seriously ill, Mother Teresa is now displaying a new determination to fight the pneumonia that forced her hospitalization a week ago and will keep her there for at least another week, her physicians said Thursday.

"She's still not out of danger," said Dr. Paul Teirstein, at the Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation in La Jolla. "The encouraging thing is, she's not getting worse."

The biggest change in the 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is her attitude toward getting better, said Teirstein and the woman's personal physician, Dr. Patricia Aubanel.

"This morning when I first went to see Mother, it was encouraging to see she was alert and cheerful, and, before anything, she told me she wanted to get well, that she had to get well, that everybody in the world was praying for her, the poor needed her, she was responsible for thousands of people in the world and that she had to get well," Aubanel said. "That always helps."

Although treatment for her pneumonia hasn't yet seemed to have much effect, the fluids in her lungs are beginning to diminish, Aubanel said.

"She was very appreciative for the prayers, and she says she feels they will help her."

But, Aubanel warned: "She's not out of danger. She can do anything, moment by moment, day by day."

Mother Teresa was admitted to the clinic Dec. 26, at Aubanel's insistence because of concern for an upper respiratory infection that persisted for several days as a cold. On Saturday, her illness was diagnosed as congestive heart failure triggered by the pneumonia, and on Sunday she underwent a procedure to clear blocked arteries.

Scripps Clinic spokeswoman Sue Pondrom said the clinic decided immediately not to charge Mother Teresa for the care, and to absorb it as a "community service."

Although she said there is no tabulation of the cost of the care yet, treatment for typical angioplasty patients can vary from $7,000 to $40,000, depending on the scope of the work. Also, because of the complications of the pneumonia, Mother Teresa is in intensive care, where charges are usually above $1,500 a day.

Wednesday night, the woman known as the Saint of the Gutters for her work among Calcutta's poor, complained of chest pain after a small coronary artery experienced a spasm, or a tightening, Teirstein said.

The spasm, perhaps brought on by elevated blood pressure, was not unexpected and was successfully treated with nitroglycerin, he said.

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