The Associated Press

NEW YORK Partially paralyzed and unable to speak, Richard Nixon moved Wednesday through what his doctor termed the "critical hours" that will determine whether the former president recovers from a major stroke.

As the 81-year-old Nixon remained in critical condition in New York Hospital's intensive care unit, get-well messages poured in from around the world, including a telegram from Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

"I hope you recover and return to the rough and tumble of political life," wrote Yeltsin, who was miffed last month when Nixon met with Yeltsin's opponents during a visit to Russia.

At the White House, President Clinton opened an afternoon news conference about Bosnia by saying he and Hillary Rodham Clinton were praying for Nixon.

"I want to join all the American people as Hillary and I pray for the health and the recovery of President Nixon," Clinton said. "I want to again say how much I have appreciated the wise counsel he has given me on the question of Russia and many other issues since I have been president."

Liz Johnston, one of three Nixon staffers who fielded call after call at the former president's office in suburban Woodcliff Lake, N.J., said they had gotten too many calls to count.

"Some are friends, some are complete strangers, some are people with remedies," she said.

Dr. Fred Plum, New York Hospital's chief of neurology, said Nixon was suffering from swelling of the brain, a complication from the stroke he suffered Monday. His daughters, Julie Eisenhower and Tricia Cox, were at his side. His wife, Pat, died last year.

"These are critical hours," Plum said late Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the hospital said that Nixon remained in critical condition. "Unless there is a significant change in his condition, there will be no further updates," the hospital's statement said.

The Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., reported receiving hundreds of calls about Nixon's condition. A taped message urged callers to send get-well messages to the library.

Visitors filled a dozen pages in a "get-well book" in the library's lobby.

"You are a hero of mine," wrote Kevin Walters, a Biola University student. "Stay with us, OK? Hang in there and keep your eyes on God."

Yoro Noboru, Japan's consul general in Los Angeles, signed a page with, "Please get well soon."

Some people ordered souvenirs with Nixon's signature, including $300 photographs and autographed baseballs and $100 postcards with Elvis stamps.

"We're Nixon fans all the way. He's such a wonderful man. We need him," said Eleanor Burke, 58, of Canyon Lake, Calif., who brought relatives from Connecticut to the library.

Chris Bennett, 35, dressed in shorts and in-line skates, rolled up to the library door and asked if he could sign the book. A security guard brought a page out to him.

"I'm a fan of his, sometimes," Bennett said.

In the hours after the stroke, doctors said Nixon was out of grave danger, alert and in good spirits.

He was moved out of intensive care briefly Tuesday, but returned two hours later when his condition worsened.

The former congressman, senator and vice president was elected the 37th president in 1968.

Known for his unwavering political tenacity, Nixon lost a presidential election to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and a California gubernatorial race in 1962 before winning the White House.

In 1974, he became the only president to resign office when he left amid the Watergate scandal and threat of impeachment. Read Next Article