HONOLULU — Former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos was taken into surgery Thursday for what the exiled leader's supporters said was a kidney operation.
But St. Francis Medical Center spokeswoman Norma Kop declined to comment on the nature of the surgery and said she did not know how long it would last.
Doctors had been considering a kidney operation on the critically ill Marcos, said Roger Pijuan, an aide to former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. "I think they are going to take a chance on repairing his kidney again," he said.
The doctors believe the organ could be the source of a persistent infection and other problems plaguing Marcos, who has been hospitalized since Jan. 15, Pijuan said.
A Mass was being held at the hospital chapel when Marcos, 71, was wheeled into surgery. Imelda Marcos and daughter, Irene, were both present at the Mass.
Earlier in the day, Marcos was in a "semi-coma, in and out of consciousness," said Pijuan.
The former leader "recognized people, he can open his lips to bite cotton soaked with water to wet his mouth," the aide said.
Marcos has been in critical condition in the intensive care unit at St. Francis for more than a month and on Wednesday suffered liver failure. He is dependent on a respirator to breathe and has been undergoing daily kidney dialysis, assistant administrator Eugene Tiwanak said.
Marcos' condition worsened Wednesday as his fever increased, and officials said he was unable to recognize family and friends. He also had an irregular cardiac rhythm and a rapid heart rate.
Longtime Marcos supporter Joe Lazo said he spent an hour in Marcos' room and, speaking with reporters at about 1 a.m. Thursday, said his temperature had dropped from 104 degrees to 101.5. Lazo described Marcos as "very, very conscious."
"He was trying to whisper to Mrs. Marcos," Lazo said. "Mrs. Marcos asked him to hold her hands tightly and he did. Mrs. Marcos was singing for him, directing her songs to the right ear of the president and the president was opening his eyes to her."
Marcos and his wife, exiled since he was deposed in 1986, have continued to ask the Manila government to allow him to return to his homeland to die. The government of President Corazon Aquino has refused, saying Marcos' return would threaten national security.