Falwell in critical condition with viral pneumonia

Updated: March 30, 2005, 7:38 PM ET
Associated Press

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- Doctors upgraded the Rev. Jerry Falwell's condition from critical to stable on Wednesday and removed the Moral Majority founder from a ventilator.

Falwell, 71, has fluid in his lungs and doctors say he suffers from congestive heart failure, although a cardiologist, Dr. Carl Moore, said testing showed "his heart is strong" and he had not suffered a heart attack.

Ron Godwin, Falwell's executive assistant, had said Tuesday that Falwell had suffered a recurrence of the viral pneumonia he had suffered from weeks earlier. But doctors said Wednesday he did not have pneumonia.

Falwell, who was admitted late Monday, heard from President Bush, who wished him well, a spokesman for Lynchburg General Hospital said at a news briefing. Details of the phone call were not released.

Godwin visited with his boss and said he was talking to friends and family.

"He's very stable," Godwin said earlier Wednesday. "His vitals are steady and strong."

Falwell was admitted to Lynchburg General in "respiratory arrest." Family members told Moore that Falwell had been unconscious from five to seven minutes and had to be resuscitated by EMTs at the hospital emergency room.

Moore said there is no evidence of neurological damage.

Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979 and became the face of the religious right as his political lobbying organization grew to 6.5 million members and raised millions for conservative politicians.

This is the second hospitalization this year for Falwell, the founder of Liberty University. He had left the hospital March 4 after 13 days, spending part of the time on a ventilator for what was called a viral infection.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Falwell said he was feeling much better but still recovering from his hospital stay.

Falwell had been in the pulpit Easter Sunday at Thomas Road Baptist Church and appeared in good health, said the Rev. Dave Randlett, a senior associate pastor.

"He always looks `up' so you wouldn't know if he wasn't" feeling well, Randlett said. "He was very optimistic."

An avid sports fan, Falwell had made the trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday to see Liberty University's team play in the third round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. The team lost.

Godwin said Falwell had "not been unreasonable" in his public schedule since his discharge. "He's been coming in at 10:30 or 11 in the morning and working until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. This past weekend was a little busier."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press