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Lady Bird Johnson hospitalized

Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson
Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson  

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- A small stroke robbed Lady Bird Johnson of speech, according to a doctor at the Texas hospital where she was in stable condition on Friday.

The 89-year-old widow of President Lyndon Baines Johnson was in the intensive care unit at Seton Medical Center in Austin.

"It does appear she has suffered a mild stroke," said Seton's Dr. Rodney Horton. "We are still not sure how permanent this is or how severe this is. It does appear she has lost the power of speech."

Mrs. Johnson's younger daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, said her mother was alert.

"My mother appreciates your interest and concern," she said. "She is alert and eager to get some more sleep than the hospital provides with all the testing that is taking place."

Biography: Lady Bird Johnson 
A blood vessel bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or something else.
--Nation's No. 3 killer, behind heart disease and cancer
--About 600,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year
--160,000 Americans die annually of stroke
--Leading cause of severe, long-term disability
--Females accounted for 61.4 percent of stroke fatalities in 1998

Source: American Stroke Association

"She's doing well," said Betty Tilson, Johnson's press assistant. "She had a small stroke, and it's affected her speech ... and she'll work with a speech therapist today."

Horton said the former first lady probably will spend the next several days in the hospital.

A meeting of the 20 members of the LBJ Foundation will be held Saturday at the LBJ Library in Austin as planned, Tilson said. "I have already told them not to count on her being there," she said. "I believe they're going to keep her in the hospital over the weekend."

Several years ago, Johnson suffered a small stroke while she was in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and she has been treated for a heart rhythm abnormality called fibrillation, Tilson said.

"But her heart is doing just fine," she added. "At 89, they're just being very cautious, I think."

Born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Texas, about 30 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana, Johnson was dubbed "Lady Bird" at an early age, when a nursemaid said she was "as purty as a lady bird." It just happened to match the initials of her future husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The couple was married in 1934 after a whirlwind courtship. They had two daughters and seven grandchildren.

President Johnson died at his beloved LBJ Ranch in 1973.

Mrs. Johnson continues to live at the ranch, in Stonewall, Texas, and also has a house in Austin.

Lady Bird Johnson is famous for her environmental projects. In Washington, she enlisted friends to plant thousands of tulips and daffodils that still bloom around the capital, and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was the result of her national campaign for beautification.

Wildflowers along Texas highways are a legacy of that act.


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