President Reagan continued his rapid recovery from surgery yesterday, while White House officials said he and Nancy Reagan had told the president's doctors not to give further medical information to reporters "because they feel very strongly about the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship."
Reagan's day included his first meeting with Vice President Bush since the operation on Saturday.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes expressed open irritation at a briefing with what he called "distasteful" questions that he said were attempts to "second-guess" the president's medical treatment and invade Reagan's privacy.
Speakes asserted that the White House had presented more detailed information about Reagan's surgery last Saturday than had been released in "any previous presidential illness."
"There has been a full and total presentation of the facts," said Speakes, in announcing that doctors would not give personal interviews about the operation or make available the pathology report on the cancerous tumor that was removed from the president's colon.
Speakes said the surgeons had come straight from the operating room to answer questions Saturday. He also observed that Nancy Reagan, daughter of the late surgeon Loyal Davis, "grew up in a medical family" and said that she and the president "have very strong feelings about the privilege of doctor-patient relationships."
Another White House official said Mrs. Reagan had expressed "growing concern" about "the laying out of intimate aspects of the operation." Reagan has watched television news reports on the operation and its aftermath every night in Bethesda Naval Hospital, officials said.
The White House yesterday issued another upbeat report on the president's recovery. Speakes said the president's first words before he left his hospital room for a morning walk were, "Tennis, anyone?"
Speakes said Reagan went to sleep at 11 p.m. Tuesday, awoke at 5 a.m. and went back to sleep until 8 a.m. when he was visited by his doctors. Dr. Dale Oller, chief of the surgical team at the hospital, examined Reagan at midday and placed him on a clear-liquid diet of bouillon, jello, popsicles, apple juice and tea.
" [The president's] vital signs are good," Speakes said. "They're solid, they're normal. The president's temperature is entirely normal and has been for the last day or so . . . . The president's digestive system is beginning to return to normal function."
Doctors also removed a nasal tube that Reagan had complained about. "This is like Christmas in July," Reagan said.
Reagan's meeting with Bush lasted about 45 minutes. Also attending were White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, vice presidential chief of staff Craig L. Fuller and Speakes.
Reagan heard the sounds of the motorcade signaling Bush's arrival and arose from bed. Bush, waiting in an adjacent sitting room, was surprised when Reagan walked in and greeted him, Speakes said.
"I came to see you, not you to see me," Bush said.
Speakes said Reagan referred to an early morning report, originating in Singapore, of his death and commented, "Somebody must be tryin' to make a buck." During the Reagan presidency there have been periodic reports of his death, which White House officials have said were deliberately created rumors designed to cause fluctuations in the exchange rates on overseas money markets.
Reagan is expected to be released from the hospital early next week in time to greet President Li Xiannian of China at the White House next Tuesday. Speakes said the president may attend the state dinner for Li. No decision has been made on whether Reagan will give his weekly radio speech this Saturday.
Despite the White House concern that Reagan's privacy may be invaded by detailed questioning about medical processes, Speakes said the president was aware that more people are having colon checkups because of his operation.
"He's pleased people are doing that," Speakes said.