U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke remains critically ill at George Washington University Hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Sunday.
Appearing on the CNN program "State of the Union," Axelrod called Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, "a very tough person" who was "fighting" the heart problem.
"Many people would have succumbed," Axelrod said of the rupture.
Holbrooke, 69, fell ill Friday morning during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and walked down to the department's medical unit, a senior State Department official said. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, the official said.
CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta said the tearing of one of the layers of the walls of the aorta "happens suddenly." It typically is associated with high blood pressure and typically occurs in men between the ages of 50 and 70.
The location of the tear "would determine what, if any, other side effects would occur," Gupta said, adding that "this is different from a problem people think of with the heart where some of the blood vessels going to the heart become blocked."