by Jane Peters

Setting the pace

Former President FW de Klerk receives a pacemaker

Nobel peace laureate's both hospitalised
Former President FW de Klerk receives a pacemaker

South Africa's last apartheid president FW de Klerk will be hospitalised to receive a pacemaker, his spokesperson said, as his fellow Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela lies critically ill.

De Klerk cut short a visit to Europe over the weekend because of Mandela's ailing health, only to fall ill himself. "He will be admitted in order to have a pacemaker installed," said  spokesperson Dave Steward. "It's a routine procedure," he added.

The 77-year-old felt dizzy after his return from Europe on Sunday and saw his physician. "The specialist recommended immediate installation of a pacemaker," said Steward.

A pacemaker is a small device that's placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate.

Pacemakers are used to treat arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). Arrhythmias are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

During an arrhythmia, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, or fainting. Severe arrhythmias can damage the body's vital organs and may even cause loss of consciousness or death. A pacemaker also can help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle.

De Klerk — a one-time hard-liner — dismantled white-minority rule and authorised the release of Mandela from prison in 1990, a decision that changed the course of South African history.

Sometimes-heated talks between the two and their factions in the end brought about the first all-race elections in 1994 which propelled Mandela to power.

 

The two men shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

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