August 31, 2001 10:48 AM

Comedy legend Bob Hope, 98, is responding well to treatment for pneumonia and could be released from the hospital within days, his doctor said on Thursday. Taking a cue from his patient, the physician also quipped that Hope was “not joking yet.” At a hospital news conference, Dr. Lee Kagan, who is Hope’s personal physician, said, “In a gentleman in this age group, it may be weeks before he’s fully recovered . . . He is not going to be hitting the links in a week.” Hope is an avid golfer. Four days after being checked into Burbank’s Providence St. Joseph Medical Center (near Hope’s Toluca Lake, Calif., estate) with shortness of breath, Hope was in “good spirits” as he battled the respiratory infection, Kagan said, adding that the comedian was being treated with antibiotics, intravenous fluids and supplemental oxygen. But at no time since his admittance, the doctor said, has Hope been on a ventilator machine or other life-support devices. Hope’s wife of 67 years, Dolores, 93, and his daughter Linda, 62 (the Hopes have four children), have been by his side almost constantly since he was admitted last Sunday. “The calls have been pouring in non-stop,” Hope’s office told on Thursday. A statement from Dolores Hope expressed “heartfelt thanks” to friends, fans and the media for get-well wishes. “And please, keep us in your prayers,” she added.

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