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UMass President Bulger collapses at McDonough's funeral
University of Massachusetts President William Bulger collapsed during a funeral Mass for the late Boston Globe sportswriter Will McDonough at St. Augustine's Church in South Boston this morning.
Bulger's primary care physician, Dr. Laurence Ronan, says Bulger suffered a fainting spell, but showed no signs of a more serious medical problem. Bulger was released from the hospital.
Bulger, who was an honorary pallbearer, apparently fainted near the end of the hour-long Mass. He was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital and was accompanied by his wife, Mary. He was awake and talking to EMTs.
Dr. Ronan said doctors performed a full round of tests, including an EKG and cardiac enzyme test, and all the results came back normal. He says the U-Mass president was smiling when he arrived at Mass General and never lost consciousness.
The 67-year-old Bulger told his doctors that he felt hot and "woozy" just before fainting.
Bulger was a lifelong friend of McDonough, the two having grown up together in South Boston.
About two hours after Bulger collapsed, his spokesman, Robert Connolly, said his boss is doing fine.
"He's alert and joking," Connolly said. "He's been evaluated and has a couple of more tests to go, but the preliminary evaluation shows no cardiac problem. It's just a simple fainting episode."
Two cardiologists who were in the church rushed to Bulger's side after he collapsed. One of them, Dr. Roman Desanctis, who was McDonough's cardiologist, rode in the ambulance with Bulger and his wife.
The other cardiologist, Dr. Laurence Conway of the New England Medical Center, told Boston.com that it appeared Bulger had a fainting spell.
"It is very common for people to faint in church, especially at funerals where emotion and grief also come into play," he said.
Conway said there is even a medical term for such episodes: Church syncope.
Conway said that often fainting spells are brought on because people may not eat breakfast before church, particularly Catholics who would fast before receiving Communion.
"I think he'll be fine," Conway said.
"It appears he had a simple faint and early evaluation shows no cardiac problem," hospital spokeswoman Georgia Pierce told the Associated Press.
The former Senate president, 68, was a longtime friend of McDonough, a sportswriter and columnist who died last week of a heart attack. He covered sports for the Globe for more than 40 years.
Bulger was sitting in the front pew when he collapsed. Communion had finished and worshippers were sitting quietly, listening to soloist Lisa Battista and the choir, the Clancy Family Singers, singing "The Prayer" as a prelude to final remarks by McDonough's wife Denise.
Other pallbearers in the same pew, and Bulger's wife, sitting behind him, jumped up to help as Bulger slumped over.
Several people yelled for a doctor, and Desanctis and Conway rushed to Bulger's side. Dusty Rhodes, who organized the past two days of tributes to McDonough as president of Conventures Inc., a special events firm, summoned three Boston Police officers from outside, part of a larger contingent that had escorted the casket and family to the church.
EMTs also arrived within moments, but it soon became clear that Bulger was not in any imminent danger. He stood with help and climbed up on the ambulance stretcher, and was taken outside through a back door of the church.
Outside, Bulger looked very pale, but was talking to his wife and emergency workers.
Inside the church, Denise McDonough prefaced her remarks about her late husband with a prayer for Bulger. She said she was sure he would be all right: "The Lord wouldn't take two great Bills on the same day," she said.
McDonough grew up in South Boston with Bulger. He was Bulger's campaign manager when he ran for his first political office, state representative, in 1960.
McDonough was also a friend of Bulger's brother, fugitive mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger. He once visited James Bulger at a federal prison in Leavenworth, Texas.
After McDonough's death, William Bulger said McDonough provided him with "the friendship of a lifetime."
"Will McDonough's friends were never lonely. He was there during the bright moments and always on hand during times of adversity," William Bulger said.
Last month, McDonough defended Bulger after he took the Fifth Amendment before a Congressional committee seeking information about his fugitive brother's whereabouts. William Bulger told a grand jury in 2001 that his brother called him shortly after going on the run in 1995, but that he has not heard from him since.
Material from the Associated Press was used in the preparation of this report.