25th Anniversary: Reagan's Brush With Death
Feeling 'Great,' President Leaves the Hospital
Saturday, April 11, 1981
President Reagan, smiling broadly but walking stiffly, left the hospital to return to the White House yesterday, 12 days after the nation's heart skipped a beat as Americans saw Reagan struck by a bullet that pierced his left lung.
Reagan said he felt "great" as he walked out of George Washington University Hospital at 10:44 a.m. with Nancy Reagan holding his right arm and his younger daughter, Patti Davis, holding his left.
"What are you going to do when you get home?" a reporter asked.
"Sit down," the president replied.
Doctors released Reagan after an X-ray taken yesterday morning showed the remaining trace of the bullet wound in his lung looking much improved. "We are quite comfortable letting him go home today," Dr. Dennis O'Leary, a hospital spokewman, said.
Although doctors have been impressed by the rapidity of the 70-year-old Reagan's recovery, they say that he will not be able to work in the Oval Office for at least a week and should not travel for several weeks.
The president had no visitors scheduled for the weekend and is expected to work about two hours daily in his study next to his bedroom for the next several days.
After a five-minute drive through the rain, Reagan was greeted by cheers and applause from about 250 people gathered under umbrellas on the White House South Lawn.
The president wore a bright red cardigan and white polo shirt. Except for the evident care with which he walked, he looked well as he stood and waved his left arm to the damp crowd. A banner reading, "Welcome Home, Mr. President" was hung on the White House facade behind him.
Vice President and Barbara Bush greeted the Reagans before the president went inside, where he was met by White House counselor Edwin Messe III and his wife, Attorney General William Rench Smith and his family and White House chief of staff James A. Baker III and his 3-1/2-year-old daughter, Mary Bonner Baker. Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman, Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Schweiker and Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige were in the crowd on the lawn.
"This looks like a nice place," the president remarked as he stepped into the White House. He went over and kissed Mary Bonner Baker, who was in her father's arms.
When doctors told Reagan at 7:45 a.m. that he could leave the hospital, the president replied: "I'd already decided that," according to White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver, who spent the morning at the hospital.