The civil rights icon had "a small heart attack and a big stroke" but is expected to recover

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 19, 2005 08:00 AM

Civil rights icon Coretta Scott King suffered “a small heart attack and a big stroke” that impaired her ability to speak and affected her right side, but she is “completely aware,” according to one of her doctors in Atlanta.

Mrs. King’s family expects that the matriarch will recover fully, reports the Associated Press.

Dr. Charles Wickliffe, a cardiologist at Piedmont Hospital, where the 78-year-old widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been hospitalized since Tuesday, said a blood clot had moved from King’s heart and was lodged in an artery in the left side of her brain. Although conscious, King is “not able yet to relay her wishes,” Wickliffe said.

The stroke caused weakness in King’s right arm, her right leg and the right side of her face, and she was not able to speak, the physician added. He said she would remain in the hospital for days and would need intensive therapy.

“We have to retrain the right side of her body to do the normal things that you do,” Wickliffe said.

He said she was in fair condition and on intravenous and oral blood thinners to prevent any further occurrences.

Her daughter, Yolanda, said she was stricken about 10 a.m. Tuesday at her home in Atlanta’s Buckhead section. She said they were having a conversation when her mother suddenly stopped talking. Family members immediately took her to the hospital.

“We are completely assured she will come to a complete recovery. We believe this is a cleverly disguised opportunity to grow,” she said. “We have all prayed in our own ways. There’s been a lot going on.”