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Paterno treated for dehydration, released from hospital

Nittany Lion coach was taken by ambulance

May 15, 2008
By Cory Giger,
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno is fine, Penn State sources say, but the legendary 81-year-old coach gave everyone a scare Thursday morning.
An ambulance was called to Paterno's house near Beaver Stadium and took him to Mount Nittany Medical Center to be treated for dehydration. He was not admitted to the hospital but did undergo tests and returned home in the early evening.
The united front from PSU spokespeople told various media outlets the same thing: This was no big deal and Paterno will be OK.
His son, Jay, even found some humor in the situation.
"If it's dehydration, he's probably all talked out," JayPa told The Associated Press.
Given Paterno's age, any health scare may cause people to think the worst. Dehydration, though, is not a severe condition if treated quickly.
"It's a relatively common thing," said Dr. Tracy A. Lillie, a family practitioner at Blair Medical Associates in Altoona.
Dehydration, the doctor noted, can be caused by a person not getting enough fluids, or by medications that lead to the loss of fluids.
"By the time all of us get thirsty, we're already a little dehydrated," Lillie said. "So all of us frequently throughout our lives get mild forms of dehydration, and the body's pretty resilient.
"As long as fluids are administered before a person starts having advanced symptoms, and certainly before their kidneys have lack of blood flow to them, then a person can feel quite fine."
The doctor gave an example of how quickly a person can recover from dehydration.
"Pregnant women get acutely dehydrated and they'll come into the emergency room and receive a liter or two of fluids and feel great the next day, go out dancing," she said.
Paterno has had a busy schedule recently, attending an alumni function in Philadelphia last Friday and spending Monday through Wednesday of this week at Big Ten coaches meetings in Chicago.
Paterno is scheduled to fly to Texas today for an event honoring Longhorns coach Mack Brown.
It may seem strange to go from an ambulance one day to an airplane the next. Lillie, though, said that's not dangerous for a person who suffers a bout of dehydration, even someone at an elevated age.
Anything that has to do with something potentially serious happening to Paterno creates quite the buzz and leads to a swarm of phone calls for Penn State spokesmen Jeff Nelson and Guido D'Elia. Both men spent time Thursday assuring people the coach was OK.
Nelson is the school's sports information director, D'Elia the director of football communications and branding, and they are always the two people quoted when anything happens to Paterno or the Nittany Lions.
Penn State is known for being very secretive about information, particularly when it relates to Paterno. So many people want to know as much as they can when something happens to the coach or the football program, and Nelson and D'Elia receive a fair amount of criticism from fans for not always providing juicy details.
"No, it doesn't bother me in the least bit," Nelson said Thursday from his office in the Bryce Jordan Center. "I have very thick skin. I work for Penn State, and I do what's in the best interest of Penn State."
Rumors of Paterno's health scare circulated in the early afternoon Thursday and eventually were verified by Nelson and D'Elia. Nelson issued a statement at about 6:30 p.m. saying the coach had been released from the hospital.
"We just make sure we have all our information, all our facts correct before we make any sort of public statement," Nelson said.
Cory Giger is at 949-7031 and

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