Raisa Gorbachev close to death

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The Independent Online
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV is by his wife's bed night and day, praying for a miracle. Raisa Gorbachev is hovering at death's jaws at the Munster clinic where she has been receiving treatment for leukaemia for nearly two months.

The wife of the former general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party was rushed to Germany on 23 July as Russian doctors ran out of options. Her condition was stabilised, but it was clear only a bone-marrow transplant would offer a hope of recovery. Her sister proved to be a suitable donor, and she arrived earlier this month.

But Mrs Gorbachev's condition took a sudden turn for the worse. With her immune system weakened by both the disease and the chemotherapy, she contracted a throat infection. On Sunday, her circulatory system collapsed.

She has been in intensive care ever since. Doctors say the chances for Mrs Gorbachev, 67, look grim. If she pulls through this crisis, it will be a long time before she can be strong enough for the bone-marrow transplant. And the acute leukaemia has flared up again.

Mr Gorbachev was reported to have wept as his wife fell into a coma. "I can't imagine how I could cope if I lost Raisa," he said in an interview.

The couple, all but forgotten in Russia, remain very popular in Germany, which is footing the medical bills. Germans feel a debt of gratitude to Mr Gorbachev for allowing East Germany to be united with the West.