F O R T L A U D E R D A L E, Fla., Oct. 24, 2000 -- Liza Minnelli has been battling medical problems for a decade. But right now, the entertainer is recovering from what may have been her biggest health scare yet: viral encephalitis, a potentially fatal swelling of the brain.
“She was quite sick and was in a very serious condition but is now recovering well,” said Dr. Maurice Hanson, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Florida in Fort Lauderdale, where Minnelli is a patient.
According to her publicist, Minnelli is in good spirits and “by no means on her death bed.”
Minnelli, 54, was doing what she loved on Oct. 8 in the Ft. Lauderdale home she has been renting: singing. Then, she collapsed into a shaking heap.
Found Shaking on the Floor
“We found her semiconscious on the floor, disoriented and suffering from what we believe was a possible stroke,” said Fire-Rescue Division Chief Stephen McInerny.
McInerny and paramedics who arrived at the Minnelli residence say the actress suffered symptoms that included paralysis on one side of her body, slurred speech and drooping facial muscles. Doctors now say she did not suffer a stroke.
Hanson said Minnelli was treated for encephalitis, then released — but later became dehydrated, and had to return to the hospital. Hanson asked reporters to respect the entertainer’s privacy. He said she has sent her thanks for their “care and concern.”
The good news for Minnelli’s fans and friends: viral encephalitis patients usually recover if they get treatment. But three years ago, nine people in Florida have died from the brain infection.
“The virus is usually transmitted either by a mosquito, via secretions from human to human can be blood born so there are different ways in which it can get into the system,” said neurologist Dr. Leonard Cohen.
Doctors says she could be released within the next few days. That would liven up the staff of Café Martorano — where Minnelli dined days before her collapse.
“Liza’s dynamic and she’s just one of those people that when she walks in a room the room lights up and we hope she gets back to her old form,” said Anthony Risoli, manager of the restaurant — where a little of Minnelli’s magic helps make up the memorabilia wall.
Recent Tour WoesMinnelli was born into show business. Her mother was Hollywoodlegend Judy Garland and her father was Academy Award-winning filmdirector Vincente Minnelli.
At 19, Minnelli won a Tony Award for her first Broadwayproduction: Flora, The Red Menace, and went on to win two more.At 26, she won best actress for 1972’s Cabaret, and later wontwo Golden Globes.
Arthur (1981), with Dudley Moore, and Martin Scorsese’sNew York, New York, (1977) co-starring Robert DeNiro, are amongher most successful films.
In May, Minnelli was forced to cancel tour dates for Minnellion Minnelli, a one-woman show saluting her father, for a hipcondition on her left hip. She has had two surgeries on her righthip.
ABCNEWS’ Andrew Colton in Ft. Lauderdale, ABCNEWS affiliate WPLG in Miami, ABC Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.