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Ex-president under knife for sleep apnea

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was yesterday sent to the Taichung Veterans General Hospital to undergo an operation to cure his sleep apnea.

The surgery will be carried out this morning, and Chen has been advised to remain in the hospital's care for at least one month for further observation, said Chen's doctor Chen Chih-te.

Chen had been serving his 19-year prison sentence in Peide Hospital Prison in Taichung after being convicted of corruption charges along with his wife. Chen, wearing a baseball cap and covered with a comforter, was taken in a wheelchair to the hospital, where he was initially subjected to X-ray tests.

Chen Chih-te, who is slated to manage the operation, arrived at the hospital for early preparations yesterday afternoon. According to the surgeon, Taiwan's former president has been suffering from a severe form of sleep apnea, and had stopped breathing for up to 50 times in one hour, for up to 10 seconds at a time. Chen had undergone surgery last October due to nasal septal deviation, an operation which reduced the average number of times he stopped breathing by 20 per hour.

The planned surgery will aim to expand Chen's respiratory tract in order to let him breathe more freely, said Chen Chih-te. “It will begin at 7:30 a.m. (today), and will last for an hour or so. We are worried that bleeding may not be promptly stanched and there may be swelling around the wound, so it would be better for Chen to stay in the hospital for a month,” said Chen Chih-te before conducting regular checkups last night.

According to local media, arrangements have been made for Chen to stay in a single ward in the hospital's psychiatry department. Upon receiving news of Chen's upcoming operation, members of the “908 Taiwan Republic Campaign” group — made up of Chen's avid supporters — arrived at the hospital and camped out across the street to pray for Chen throughout the night.

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Former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is pushed in a wheelchair in Taichung Veterans General Hospital, yesterday. Chen was taken to the hospital to await surgery to treat his sleep apnea, which has been troubling him recently. (CNA)

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