Since last Friday, international media is once again abuzz with rumors that Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who is now 86, might have suffered an embolic stroke and that his condition is such he is either unconscious or having trouble speaking and recognizing people.
The latest rumor on Fidel Castro’s health status seems to have started with Dr. Jose Rafael Marquina, a Venezuelan physician based in Naples, FL—who incidentally is the same doctor who assured the media a year ago that Chavez had metastatic cancer, and was close to dying.
Marquina told El Nuevo Herald that he had first-hand access to credible information in the island and that Fidel Castro’s condition had him “very close to a neurovegetative state.”
The Associated Press reported that Juanita Castro, the Cuban leader’s sister, dismissed the news as “absurd,” and two other close family members also denied that Fidel Castro was in any frail condition.
A Canadian journalist based in Cuba, Jean Guy Allard, also wrote off the news and discredited the source. He even called Marquina a “charlatan.”
“All speculations about the cerebral stroke suffered by the Cuban Revolution leader, Fidel Castro, and even his alleged death,” Allard said, “is pure provocation from the United States, that purposefully divulge this type of baseless rumors to stray public opinion from other more pressing issues.”
A few weeks away from his 80th birthday, Fidel Castro announced he was giving up power. He said he had underwent a complicated surgical procedure because of gastrointestinal bleeding and needed to have rest.
Fidel Castro has been missing from public view
In 2008, Fidel Castro retired from the presidency because of health issues that were never corroborated by the Cuban government. He continued to make his voice heard among Cubans, especially through his weekly column “Reflexiones,” but he hasn’t published any in the Granma newspaper, since the month of July. Castro has not made any appearances in public since Pope Benedict XVI visited the island last March.
Since his retirement, Cuban newspapers have continued to publish pictures of any meeting of Castro with foreign leaders. However, some media recently reported that Hugo Chavez, close ally and friend of Fidel Castro’s, did not receive a congratulatory message after his recent win in Venezuela and that the president might have arrived in the island this week to meet with a possibly terminally-ill Castro.
Fidel Castro has trouble speaking, feeding…
According to Dr. Marquina, Fidel Castro, “has trouble feeding, speaking and recognizing faces.”
His description of Castro’s symptoms is indeed consistent with those of a stroke, when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. Because the brain’s supply of oxygen and nutrients is cut, the brain cells start to die.
An embolic stroke is a type of ischemic strokethat happens when a blood clot or embolus, formed away from the brain—usually the heart—is lodged in a brain artery and obstructs the blood flow.
Depending on the size and location of the compromised artery, symptoms can range from just numbness of the face, arm or leg (usually on just one side of the body) to paralysis and a state of deep unconsciousness.
Sudden, and often severe, headaches, accompanied by vomiting may indicate someone is having a stroke.
Other symptoms of an embolic stroke include:
- Dizziness, loss of balance and coordination, which compromise walking.
- Confusion, difficulty to articulate or to understand words, which compromise the capacity to understand and communicate with others
- Blurred, blackened or double vision.
In the case of Fidel Castro, other than Dr. Marquina’s statements, there is no evidence that he might have suffered such a condition nor that he is dealing with any health issues at the moment.