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Colorado History: President Dwight Eisenhower's 1955 Heart Attack in Denver

President’s Day: “There’s nothing like it. It’s a little bit of 1955 medical history.”

DENVER — President’s Day is a time to honor the lives of those who have lead this country. 

Of the 45 presidents who have been elected, not one has been from Colorado. However, a former President did run the country for about six weeks from a hospital bed in Aurora.

President Dwight Eisenhower came to Colorado on a “work and play” vacation in September 1955. “Ike,” as he was known, spent a lot of time in Colorado.

The former army general would often come to visit the old Lowry Air Force Base. The base closed in the early 1990’s and it was turned into a Denver suburb.

Eisenhower also had a family connection to Colorado. The former first lady, Mamie Doud was raised in Denver. The couple married at the Doud family home in 1916. When President Eisenhower came to Colorado, he enjoyed spending time outdoors, painting and golfing.

During a trip in September 1955, he played a round at Cherry Hills Golf Club. That night, he felt ill. Eisenhower complained of chest pains which he thought was minor indigestion from a hamburger with onions that he ate earlier in the day. But, it was more than that.

Eisenhower’s personal physician and a cardiac specialist were called to evaluate him. An electrocardiogram determined the president had suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to the Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, which closed in the 1990s. The building is now part of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

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Eisenhower’s condition was not good, according to historian John Steward

“He was pretty serious,” said Stewart. “He had a dangerous clot near his heart. He came out here and was placed right in this room. Room 8002. And they began working on him.”

The White House made the announcement to the public shortly after. A team of doctors stayed with the President around the clock in his 8th floor suite to monitor his condition.

Cabinet members and foreign dignitaries flew to Colorado during that time to pay their respects and work out political issues. Media waited day and night, catching glimpses and photos of Eisenhower in a wheelchair from the sundeck of the building.

Stewart said it took about six weeks for Eisenhower to recover under medical guidance before he could leave the hospital and return to Washington to run the White House.

“They tried the newest technique at the time to gradually get the president into more and more exercise. Having him sit up in a chair for a while, and finally start to walk,” Stewart said 

On Nov. 11, Armistice Day, President Eisenhower was released from the Fitzsimons Army Hospital and then spent a few weeks on his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Eisenhower went on to win re-election in 1956 and died in March 1969.

The Eisenhower Suite which includes the president’s hospital room, a Secret Service sitting room, and a nurse’s office was restored to 1955 about 20 years ago by CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

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“There’s nothing like it. It’s a little bit of 1955 medical history,” Stewart said.

Other rooms in the suite have been converted into offices and restrooms in the building that now serve as the administrative center on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Tours of the Eisenhower Suite are offered by request. To book one, email Ron Washington, Lead Ambassador at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. ron.washington@cuanschutz.edu


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