Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 Presidential Ailments of a Very Specific Nature

Stacy Conradt
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So"¦ this is a really weird Quick 10 topic. But let me explain how that came about. I was going to do an article about Presidential ailments and injuries in general "“ you know, we're all aware that FDR had polio, but who knew Herbert Hoover had a hatchet injury? That kind of thing. But as I started researching, I started noticing that a large number of Presidents had problems"¦ erm, south of the border. So it sort of naturally just evolved. I promise you, I didn't just wake up one morning and think "“ "You know what I feel like researching today? Thomas Jefferson's constipation. That sounds like fun."

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2. James K. Polk. Polk had "debilitating" diarrhea, which he also described in detail in his diary: "Thursday, 29th June, 1848. Before sun-rise this morning I was taken with a violent diarrhea accompanied with severe pain. I was very soon prostrated by it." It was often so bad that he couldn't eat or sleep. As a youngster he had urinary stones, and it's thought that the operation may have left him sterile since he never had children.

3. James Garfield "“ anal fissures. I can't find a whole lot of information about President Garfield's anal fissures, but I will take CBS at their word.

4. William Howard Taft "“ in 1902, he underwent surgery for an abscess in his perineum.

First of all: Ouch. Second: Ew.

5. FDR "“ Hemorrhoids. Harold Ickes, the secretary of the interior, kept a diary that included periodic updates on FDR's health. On May 17, 1941, he noted that the hemorrhoids and the resulting bleeding were so bad that the President required blood transfusions.

6. President Bush (W., not H.W.) He suffered from hemorrhoids during his tenure in the National Guard; he has also had some cases of colonic polyps.

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8. Jimmy Carter. Mr. Peanut had hemorrhoids, bad. And he talked about them quite a bit. In fact, Carter wrote in his book that in 1978, Anwar Sedat has announced that his "good friend Jimmy" had hemorrhoids and apparently appealed for all Egyptians to pray for him, because he was a good man who promoted peace. The day after, Carter wrote, the pain went away for the first time in weeks. He said he thought about issuing a statement thanking everyone for their prayers, but then decided against it, figuring that the public had already heard way too much about his ass (he said "ailment"). However, he said, "I've never received a better Christmas gift."

9. Ronald Reagan had several rear-related issues during his second term as President. In July, 1985, he had cancerous polyps removed from his colon. Then, a couple of years later, he underwent another surgery to treat an enlarged prostate.

10. George Washington may have been sterile as well. Although Martha had four children by her former husband, she and George were unable to have any at all. Apparently George thought that if he ever married someone younger, he might be able to have kids. But I don't know if this really holds water "“ Martha Custis was only 27 when he married her. Lots of historians think he may have been sterile by a case of the mumps. Ironically, the fact that he could have no kids is partially what made people back him for the Presidency "“ no children meant there would be no heirs to automatically assume his title when he died.

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