George H.W. Bush’s Hospitalization After Barbara’s Funeral Could Be Due to Broken Heart Syndrome
The former president’s chief of staff said the politician was “broken-hearted” over the loss of his wife of 73 years.
His spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Monday that Bush, 93, “was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning after contracting an infection that spread to his blood.”
“He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updated as events warrant.”
“So many of you are asking, ‘How is 41?’ He, of course, is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years,” Becker wrote in a statement. “He held her hand all day today and was at her side when [she] left this good earth.”
The statement continued, “Obviously, this is a very challenging time. But it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he also is being stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them as well. He appreciates all the well wishes and support.”
But behind his tough demeanor, mourning Barbara could behind George’s increased health issues. It’s called takotsubo cardiomyopathy – “broken heart syndrome.”
“Broken heart syndrome is absolutely a real syndrome, a true medical condition,” David Kessler, a grief expert and founder of Grief.com, tells PEOPLE. “Grief is a reflection of the love. And the loss of a love so deep can actually be heartbreaking.”
Kessler says he sees this situation often with couples who have been married for such a long time.
“If two hearts have beaten in rhythm for 73 years, it’s not surprising that when Barbara leaves, that George considers following,” he explains. They have a love story that not even a little death can stop.”
The author shares that Barbara’s funeral could have been exhausting and overwhelming for George.
“My guess is those few days, saying goodbye to her and connecting with so many people took such a toll on his body,” the author says. “He was running on empty. She was the one who filled him up. He must be missing her terribly.”
Kessler adds, “Till death do us part is often not true with broken heart syndrome, the love and the longing continues. Sometimes the other spouse follows days, weeks and months later.”
Dr. Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, previously talked to PEOPLE about the condition after Debbie Reynolds died one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher.
Broken heart syndrome acts very much like a heart attack with symptoms such as chest pains, abnormal EKGs and the heart muscle not working properly. Dr. Reynolds explained that although some cases are fatal, patients who survive the initial event usually make a full recovery.
The cardiologist said that researchers believe stress is a significant factor because the attack often takes place in close association with severe stresses such as the loss of a loved one.
“We think it may have something to do with an extreme adrenaline rush, and our research at NYU has focused on how the body can rein in an adrenaline surge,” she says. “We wonder if people who have this problem could have a difficulty reining in an adrenaline surge on a physical level.”
Barbara was laid to rest at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, on Saturday.
Bush family spokesperson Jim McGrath shared a photo of her husband’s socks, which featured books to honor Barbara’s work as an advocate for literacy.