President Reagan, having regained his normal intestinal function following cancer surgery a week ago, is expected to go home from Bethesda Naval Hospital today, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said yesterday.
Reagan will travel back to the White House immediately after making his regular Saturday radio broadcast at noon. He will travel by car so as not to subject his healing incisions to the jolts and vibrations of a helicopter ride. His release comes one week, almost to the hour, after undergoing major surgery to remove a two-inch malignant tumor and about two feet of his large intestine.
Six to seven days is a fairly standard period of hospitalization after such surgery.
Reagan's recuperation, however, will not be complete for several more weeks. The president is expected to remain in the White House residential quarters for a few days, limiting his physical activity and resting frequently, before returning to the Oval Office.
On Tuesday Reagan is expected to be able to greet Chinese President Li Xiannian, who will be making a state visit to the White House. Speakes said Reagan would also be lobbying members of Congress by telephone in an attempt to break a deadlock over the federal budget.
More strenuous physical activity, doctors say, will not be possible for another few weeks.
The president was given the news of his scheduled release around noon yesterday by Nancy Reagan, who had just spoken with doctors.
"Great. I'll sleep in my own bed tomorrow night," the president reportedly said. "You can take the pictures down," he told Mrs. Reagan, who had brought a number of pictures from the White House to hang in the hospital's presidential suite.
Earlier yesterday, Reagan spent about an hour and a half in three consecutive meetings with White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and national security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane. Reagan stayed in bed to talk with Regan and McFarlane but got up to greet Shultz at the door and escort him to a sitting room for their 35-minute session.
Briefing reporters later, McFarlane described Reagan as feeling "terrific, full of beans, very inquisitive."
The key factor in deciding when a colon surgery patient goes home is usually the return of normal bowel function, which follows the resumption of a solid food diet. After beginning to take liquids on Wednesday, Reagan started solid foods Thursday night, eating a simple baked chicken and rice meal. Yesterday the president had a cheeseburger with relish for lunch and, for dinner, salmon, fresh corn, spinach, fruit slaw and peach melba.
Speakes denied a suggestion in yesterday's Washington Post that Reagan scheduled his colon examination only after receiving a phone call from his brother in California, J. Neil (Moon) Reagan. Speakes said Reagan's July 12 exam, which found the tumor that was removed the next day, was arranged on June 7.
Earlier Speakes had said that the exam was arranged two weeks beforehand. This would have put it exactly at the time Neil Reagan was diagnosed as having the same kind of colon cancer as would later be found in the president.
Speakes confirmed that Neil telephoned the president to tell him of the diagnosis but said the president's colon exam had already been set more than a month beforehand.