Doctors treating former Indonesian dictator Suharto said yesterday he could be released from intensive care within a couple days after breathing on his own and beating back a blood infection.
The 86-year-old has been in the hospital for three weeks, suffering from multiple organ failure, pneumonia and sepsis, a potentially lethal blood infection that is particularly dangerous for the elderly and critically ill patients.
Although his condition has fluctuated wildly and he was still receiving blood transfusions and kidney dialysis, his physicians were "optimistic" he will soon be out of critical condition, said Marjo Subiandono, head of the presidential medical team.
Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years until being toppled by a pro-democracy uprising in 1998, was rushed to a hospital with anemia and a dangerously low heart rate on Jan. 4.
His health deteriorated rapidly a week ago, when he briefly stopped breathing and doctors said he had been close to death several times.
He was being fed through a tube, his lungs filled with fluid and sepsis spread through his body.
But his condition took a sudden upturn this week when he ate on his own, spoke in a whisper and began moving his arms.
Doctors spoke of an "amazing recovery."
"By this morning he was breathing entirely on his own," Dr Christian Johannes said.
Suharto, who led a regime widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, has lived a reclusive life in a comfortable villa in downtown Jakarta for the past decade.
Historians say up to 800,000 alleged communist sympathizers were killed during his rise to power from 1965 to 1968.
His troops were responsible for another 300,000 deaths in military operations against independence movements in Papua, Aceh and East Timor.
No one has been punished over the killings.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International has said Suharto and his family amassed billions of dollars in stolen state funds, allegations they are fighting in court.