Al Unser to stay in hospital for week

Updated: October 19, 2005, 8:51 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Al Unser remained hospitalized Wednesday with pancreatitis, and his wife said the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion will stay through next week for gall bladder surgery.

"He's not a happy camper. He doesn't like being in the hospital," Susan Unser said. "But he's got a lot of friends calling to check on him and that makes it a little more bearable."

The 66-year-old Unser was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital on Tuesday. Doctors found Unser's pancreas was inflamed, most likely because of gallstones.

He was ordered to rest and take fluids until the pancreatitis subsides, then he'll have his gall bladder removed Monday, Mrs. Unser said.

Unser also was on oxygen to help him breathe because of fluid in his lungs, but Mrs. Unser said his condition wasn't life-threatening.

"This thing really knocked him to his knees," she said. "He's never been sick. He's been in the hospital a lot, but until now it's always been broken bones."

Unser complained of abdominal pain while changing a flat tire on his motor home during a drive to California last Thursday. Waiting for a tow truck, he grew increasingly uncomfortable.

"He said, 'Man, my stomach hurts,' and that was the end of it," Mrs. Unser said. "He got pasty looking. I was afraid it was his heart, and I told him we were going to the hospital."

Unser was examined at a hospital in Winslow, Ariz., where he had several tests performed before returning to Albuquerque on Monday.

"I know my husband, and he doesn't go down very easily," Mrs. Unser said.

Racing fans have been phoning and visiting the hospital to offer support, but Mrs. Unser encouraged well-wishers to send cards to the Unser Racing Museum so her husband can rest.

"He's resting comfortably. He's just annoyed to have to be there," she said. "He is finally starting to pay attention to the nurses, so that's a good sign."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press