UPDATED: 8/06/2012 7 p.m. Former Hawaii Gov. and current Honolulu mayoral hopeful Ben Cayetano is in the hospital after suffering symptoms believed to be caused by a bleeding ulcer.
Cayetano’s condition is not considered life threatening, and his wife said during a Monday press conference that he could be discharged as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
This is not the first time Cayetano, 72, has been hospitalized as a result of a bleeding ulcer.
In 1997, he collapsed in the middle of the night while governor. He had lost enough blood to require a blood transfusion. He was hospitalized for about a week.
Vicky Cayetano said there’s the possibility her husband will need a blood transfusion, but that no decision has been made yet.
She also said she doesn’t anticipate this affecting her husband’s bid to become Honolulu’s next mayor. In fact, she said he was working on his computer Monday while also talking to his doctor.
“I will say that in the more than 15 years that we’ve been married I have never seen my husband work as hard as he has in the last seven months,” Vicky Cayetano said. “I think that frankly neither the negative campainging that’s being waged against him or a bleeding ulcer is going to hold him back from giving his all to the very finish.”
Cayetano is the current front runner in the mayoral race. He’s running against incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle and former Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell on an anti-rail platform. Both Carlisle and Caldwell are supporters of the city’s plan to build a $5.26 billion, steel-on-steel elevated rail system from East Kapolei to Ala Moana.
His lead as well as his stance on rail have made Cayetano the subject of a $1 million media campaign by the Pacific Resource Partnership to make sure he’s not elected. PRP is a partnership between the Hawaii Carpenters Union and local contractors that is designed to boost the construction industry.
Dr. Kalani Brady, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, said bleeding ulcers are not uncommon. He also said individuals who have ulcers — which occur when tissue is destroyed inside the stomach or small intestine — are likely to have them again.
Some ulcers can be caused by several factors, including stimulation from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as over the counter Aleve or Advil. Brady said caffeine, alcohol and stress can also play a role.
Not all ulcers bleed, Brady said. Sometimes they just leave a “crater” in the tissue lining. The bleeding comes if there’s a deteriorated blood vessel in that crater.
“He’s in the best place being in the hospital,” Brady said, “If he was to really open up because of the ulcer they could treat him right away.”
If the bleeding is bad, Brady said doctors can cauterize, or electrically burn, the ulcer area. But for the most part surgery is “almost never” necessary, and typical treatment involves taking oral medication for six to eight weeks. Patients who go to the hospital with bleeding are usually discharged within a couple days, he said.
Vicky Cayetano said her husband first started noticing he had bleeding ulcer symptoms while at home Sunday. He had blood in his stool and cold sweats.
He called his doctor to set up an appointment, she said, but the doctor told the former governor to go to the emergency room.
Cayetano was scheduled to have an endoscopy Monday to confirm that his symptoms are indeed caused by a bleeding ulcer. Vicky Cayetano said she believes her husband will be back on his normal campaign schedule by Wednesday.
“I think that from all that we know from medicine about bleeding ulcers they’re very treatable,” she said. “They don’t even require any kind of treatment in the hospital. It’s just taking the antibiotics until the bacteria is out of the system.”
She said her husband will likely be taking H. pylori antibiotics. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, H. pylori is a bacteria commonly associated with peptic ulcers because it damages the mucous coating that protects the stomach and small intestine.
Both Carlisle and Caldwell issued statements wishing Cayetano a quick recovery. PRP Executive Director John White also joined in, saying PRP was “saddened” to hear Cayetano was hospitalized and that it planned to suspend the broadcast of its negative campaign ads that targeted the former governor.
“The decision was made as soon as we learned about Governor Cayetano’s condition,” White said. “We have contacted the television and radio stations playing our commercials and have asked them to take our spots off the air.”
But as of Monday evening, at least some were still airing.
How Cayetano rebounds from his hospitalization will no doubt be a role in the lead up to Saturday’s primary.
His wife said he’s committed to running his campaign, and she isn’t worried about how the stress will impact him. He once ran the entire state, she said.
But Dr. Glenn Pang, a Honolulu gastroenterologist, said Cayetano might want to ease off the political gas pedal even though the Aug. 11 finish line is in sight.
“If he goes and campaigns for a couple of hours, it’s fine,” Pang said. “But if it’s a whole day of campaigning, I don’t think any doctor would recommend something like that.”