- President Donald Trump appeared to struggle for breath as he returned to the White House on Monday from a three-day hospitalisation.
- In footage designed to show his recovery, the president climbed stairs and removed his mask before entering the White House.
- But the president’s breathing after he removed the mask appeared labored – one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.
- One medical expert said the footage was a “textbook example of increased work of breathing.”
- Trump in a video Monday night claimed to have recovered from his illness. But his doctor estimated it would be about a week before it would be clear.
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Footage of President Donald Trump returning to the White House after a three-day hospitalisation with COVID-19 appeared to show him having difficulty breathing.
Trump on Monday evening left Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre despite being still infected with the coronavirus.
Arriving at the White House in front of news cameras he climbed a set of stairs, removed his mask on the balcony, saluted the departing helicopter, and stepped into the building.
Trump appears to be wincing in pain while he breathes pic.twitter.com/YKhGhu0VN0
— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) October 5, 2020
The sequence appeared designed to show that Trump had recovered and was back in business after the diagnosis that left him hospitalized for three days.
But some medical experts pointed out that Trump appeared far from well, commenting that he appeared to struggle to breathe.
This is a textbook example of increased work of breathing. In addition to using normal respiratory muscles (the diaphragm & those between the ribs that expand the chest cavity), “accessory muscles” in his neck are kicking in to help draw a breath
— Ilan Schwartz MD PhD (@GermHunterMD) October 6, 2020
Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta who is an expert in lung diseases, said Trump’s breathing appeared abnormal.
He said: “This is a textbook example of increased work of breathing. In addition to using normal respiratory muscles (the diaphragm & those between the ribs that expand the chest cavity), ‘accessory muscles’ in his neck are kicking in to help draw a breath.”
A British doctor also concluded from the footage that the president seemed unwell.
“If you look at the video on the balcony of the White House, he is clearly having difficulty breathing,” Dr. Zoe Norris, a general practitioner and lecturer, told “BBC Breakfast” early Tuesday. “That is not a man that is better.”
After removing his mask, Trump stands for about two minutes, gives a thumbs up, salutes the departing helicopter that transported him from hospital, and enters the White House. He makes inaudible remarks to someone not in camera shot.
Trump in a video posted online and apparently filmed shortly after his return to the White House claimed to have recovered.
“Now I’m better and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know,” Trump remarked in the video, where he appears to have no difficulty breathing while speaking. “Don’t be afraid of it,” he told Americans of the disease. Allies shared a meme showing him wrestling the coronavirus into submission.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The image Trump sought to portray with his dramatic return to the White House also clashed with a more sober assessment from his medical team.
In a press briefing earlier Monday, the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, told reporters that the president was “not entirely out of the woods yet.”
Conley did say, however, that Trump’s oxygen levels and “his work of breathing are all normal.”
Conley said Trump would “be surrounded by world-class medical care 24/7,” even after his return to the White House.
But Conley in the briefing said it would be about a week before doctors would know whether Trump had made a full recovery.
“If we can get through to Monday” â€” October 12 â€” “with him remaining the same or improving better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief,” Conley said.
Commenting to The Washington Post, Daniel Kaul, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Michigan, said that people of Trump’s age with a similar severity of infection could suffer symptoms for weeks.
Such patients, Kaul remarked, “usually have a pretty slow recovery, with weeks and sometimes months of cognitive difficulties, shortness of breath, severe fatigue.”
Contradictory accounts of Trump’s conditions have been circulated by official sources for days, with the president seeking to portray himself as having successfully conquered the illness, while his physicians revealed that he was being treated using drugs reserved for those with more severe infections.