Chretien released from hospital, headed home to recover in Shawinigan

Jean Chretien was apparently raring to get out of the hospital when he was discharged Monday, just three days after undergoing brain surgery.

MONTREAL — Jean Chretien was apparently raring to get out of the hospital when he was discharged Monday, just three days after undergoing brain surgery.

“He was all dressed and ready to go before the doctors finished signing the papers,” said longtime aide Bruce Hartley.

“He was in great shape.”

On his way out Chretien did pause for a moment, however, to swing by the nurses’ station and thank everyone for his care. He and his wife Aline then headed off to Shawinigan, where he will continue his recovery.

Chretien, well-known for his folksy style on the campaign trail, made it a point to learn the names of his doctors and nurses during his brief stay in hospital.

“He knew every nurse’s and attendant’s name and where they were from,” Hartley said, laughing when asked if Chretien had recruited any for the Liberals.

Chretien expressed gratitude for his care before leaving.

“He said, ’Thank you very much,”’ Hartley said. “He went up to the nursing station and waved to them and said, ’A-1 service, thank you.”’

Friends of the former prime minister said they were delighted by the speed of his recovery at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.

The 76-year-old Chretien had surgery Friday because of a subdural hematoma, a potentially life-threatening pool of blood between his brain and skull.

“Mr. Chretien was in good form and spirits as he left the hospital,” the Jewish General said in a statement Monday.

“Neurosurgeon Dr. Jeff D. Golan, who performed the procedure, has recommended that Mr. Chretien take several weeks to convalesce before returning to his regular activities.”

Chretien’s hospitalization prompted the current prime minister, Stephen Harper, to wish him well and predict Chretien would emerge from this challenge the way he emerged from others: by winning.

Denis Coderre, a longtime Liberal MP, was happy to hear his old boss had left the hospital so quickly.

“Why am I not surprised?” he said when informed of Chretien’s release. “Great.”

Coderre stayed in contact with Chretien’s family while the former prime minister was in hospital but didn’t talk to Chretien directly because he said he didn’t want to disturb him.

“I was astonished that he had that problem,” Coderre said in a telephone interview.

“But he’s truly a force of nature.”

Coderre said that the problem may have stemmed from a slight accident Chretien had a few weeks ago.

“His wife told me Saturday that he bumped his head at the beginning of summer. It seems there was a direct link with what happened afterwards.”

Coderre joked that even while in hospital, politics probably weren’t far from Chretien’s thoughts and that he probably checked to ensure the surgeon was a Liberal.

He said he had no doubt the former prime minister was an entertaining patient.

“They had to suffer all his jokes and his stories but you have no choice with Jean,” he said with a laugh.

On a more serious note, Codere said that communication is a key element in determining a patient’s response to brain surgery.

“My ex-boss talking and joking with the surgeon and the people there just proved that he was in good shape because he’s not an actor. What you see is what you get with Jean.”