In January 1944 FDR began complaining of headaches in the evening. "He seemed strangely
tired, even in the morning hours; he occasionally nodded off during a conversation; once, he
blacked out half-way through signing his name to a letter, leaving a long scrawl"
FDR was referred to
a cardiologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital who, on March 27, 1944 found him cyanotic, breathless,
with an enlarged left ventricle and a blood pressure of 186/108. Bruenn diagnosed hypertensive
heart disease and wanted to give digitalis, but was prohibited by
the president's personal physician and then surgeon-general of the U.S. Navy.
The next day, FDR developed moist rales at the base of the right lung. During a press conference
that day, FDR was asked about his physical condition and answered, "I got bronchitis."
By March 30 crackles were present at the base of both lungs. Bruenn diagnosed congestive heart
failure, but it was not until the next day, after FDR was examined by civilian consultants,
that digitalis was begun. FDR would continue the digitalis for the rest of his life.
By April 3, FDR was better. His color was better, he could lie flat without dyspnea, and
the crackles disappeared from both lungs. His blood pressure, however, was 210/110.