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Published May 11, 2011, 06:58 PM

Evangelist Billy Graham Admitted to Hospital

Evangelist Billy Graham, 92, was admitted to an Asheville, N.C., hospital on Wednesday and is being treated for pneumonia.

By: Tim Funk, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —Evangelist Billy Graham, 92, was admitted to an Asheville, N.C., hospital on Wednesday and is being treated for pneumonia.

Graham spokesman Larry Ross said doctors do not believe his condition is life threatening. And two of his children — Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz — had no plans Wednesday to return early from mission trips overseas.

The elder Graham was taken to Mission Hospital, near his Montreat, N.C., home, Wednesday morning after experiencing what Ross called "a pulmonary challenge" overnight.

He "had episodes of sweating and coughing," Ross said. "He had a slight fever and experienced difficulty breathing. But he was never in any distress or in an acute situation."

A battery of diagnostic tests suggested pneumonia and determined that Graham's heart was normal. Since then, Graham has been receiving antibiotics and is under observation.

"He is resting comfortably and is fully alert," Dr. Lucian Rice, his primary physician, said in a statement released by the hospital.

Ross predicted the hospital stay would last a day or two, depending on how he responds to the antibiotics.

"He's remained in good spirits and has kept his sense of humor," Ross said. "He even signed his own admission papers. He ate a big lunch, and has been joking with the medical staff."

Franklin Graham, his eldest son and CEO of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was visiting North Korea on Wednesday.

"He's aware of (his father's admission to the hospital) and he's keeping an eye on what's been going on," Franklin Graham spokesman Todd Shearer said Wednesday evening. "But, right now, he has no plans to come back early. He's scheduled to leave North Korea at the end of the week."

Anne Graham Lotz was in Israel, Ross said.

In recent years, Billy Graham — long a globe-trotting evangelist and pastor to U.S. presidents — has largely stayed in his mountain-top home. He has nursing care there and gets frequent visits from family and old friends — and, occasionally, from national politicians. President Barack Obama visited him last year; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the year before that.

Last December, Graham returned to Charlotte to greet former President George W. Bush and wife Laura, who were signing copies of their books at the Billy Graham Library.

Graham's wife of 63 years, Ruth, died in June 2007.

Besides his advanced age, Graham has suffered from Parkinson's disease-like symptoms, hearing loss and macular degeneration, which has robbed much of his eyesight.

Graham has been hospitalized three times since 2007, most recently in October 2008 after tripping over his dog — a golden retriever named Sam.

In 2007, he stayed at Mission Hospital for almost two weeks after experiencing intestinal bleeding. And in early 2008, he had elective surgery at the hospital to install an updated shunt in his head. The shunt drains fluid from his brain through a small tube and relieves excess pressure that can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.

Still, Graham appears to be mentally alert, and is completing a new book on his twilight years, Ross said, "based on his personal experience, and the necessary emotional and spiritual preparation for what he has found to be the most fulfilling years of life."

Graham has Bible study each morning and evening, Ross said, and keeps up with current events via nightly TV news shows.

He gets reports on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association from his son. Franklin Graham also leads the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse, whose many humanitarian projects around the world include equipping three hospitals and a dental school in North Korea.

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(c) 2011, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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