The American public reacted with surprise and concern on Monday afternoon when First Lady Melania Trump‘s office announced without preamble that she was hospitalized after after a successful procedure to treat a “benign kidney condition.”
But Anita McBride, former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush, tells PEOPLE that beyond sending well wishes, American citizens should respect and understand that Mrs. Trump’s health “should be her personal business [because] she’s not the president.”
“Having been in the White House when First Lady Laura Bush had neck surgery, we all acknowledge there’s absolutely interest—the American people have an interest in the first family and first lady, undoubtedly. And hopefully that interest is because they wish her well and a speedy recovery,” says McBride, who also served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and is now executive-in-residence at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “But beyond that, she is not the elected official and should be granted her privacy in any medical issue.”
The first word of Mrs. Trump’s health troubles came from her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, who announced in a statement Monday that President Donald Trump‘s wife, 48, had successfully underdone a kidney procedure and would likely remain hospitalized for the rest of the week as she recovers.
“This morning, First Lady Melania Trump underwent an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition,” the statement said. “The procedure was successful and there were no complications. Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week. The First Lady looks forward to a full recovery so she can continue her work on behalf of children everywhere.”
McBride reflected on the similarities between Mrs. Trump’s quiet, unpublicized trip to the hospital, and that of Mrs. Bush in September 2007, when she underwent surgery to relieve pain from pinched nerves in her neck. Mrs. Bush had been expected to accompany her husband, then-President George W. Bush, to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation(APEC) summit in Australia, but she canceled her trip in order to have the procedure.
“Mrs. Bush canceled a trip, went in [to the hospital] quietly. She’d been having a nagging problem with her neck—with a disk and nerves—and the recommendation of the physicians was for surgery on her neck,” McBride said.
“We did essentially the same thing [as Mrs. Trump]. Mrs. Bush went in quietly. She had the surgery and then the press secretary put out a brief statement that she had the surgery, it was successful and she was recovering well and that was it,” McBride said.
Mrs. Trump received a bipartisan outpouring of support on Twitter and on television Monday, with some raising questions about the details of her medical issues.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighed in on the news on CNN, saying, “When I hear benign kidney condition, most of the time you’re thinking a cyst. But a cyst is not typically embolized.”
“Typically that’s a laparoscopic-type procedure and not something that would keep her in the hospital for several days,” he continued.
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Gupta called the plan to have Mrs. Trump remain hospitalized for the rest of this week “not insignificant.”
In response to follow-up questions about the first lady’s condition, Grisham told PEOPLE there was “nothing more I can expand on, aside from the statement.”