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June 25, 2009
By Elisa Lipsky-Karasz
Thank goodness Brooke Astor isn’t around to witness the minute dissection of her life going on at Manhattan Criminal Court during the trial of her son, Anthony Marshall. The society doyenne, who cared so much about appearances that she dressed for dinner even when dining alone, would be horrified by the personal details now being picked over in public.
Tuesday brought testimony from her physician of 30 years, Dr. R.A. Rees Pritchett, a bow tie-wearing gent who also treated Annette de la Renta and Leona Helmsley. Pritchett reviewed a decade’s worth of medical records on the stand, revealing that Astor’s old age was no walk in the park.
At age 93, Astor insisted she was “still a young girl,” the internist noted. “Patient resents any disability.”
She repeatedly rejected recommendations to have an around-the-clock aide, to use Depends and to slow down her social schedule (“She was still going out six nights a week, instead of seven,” said Pritchett).
The tiny, 105-pound grand dame did acquiesce to an arsenal of medication, including Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro for depression; Daypro and epidural steroid injections for sciatica; Procrit for anemia; Antivert for vertigo; the stimulants Dexedrine and Concerta, and the barbiturate Butisol, which she took for many years. “I tried to get her off it, but she liked it,” said Pritchett, who also explained Astor underwent radiation several times for cancer on her leg and face, fractured her hands and wrists and suffered from an oesophageal swallowing disorder that resulted in recurring bouts of pneumonia.
There was one medication whose significance she may not have understood: Aricept, meant to combat the Alzheimer’s Astor was never informed she had.
“I feel awful,” complained the frustrated Astor to her doctor starting in the mid-Nineties, who sent her to a string of cognitive specialists. Each one was sent packing after they asked “offensive” questions about her memory, Pritchett said.
Marshall, too, wrote letters explaining his mother’s decline. When she made slips, such as forgetting his birthday, she “tried to cover it up,” he said. She was also “paranoid that things are being stolen from her” — somewhat ironic given the fact that Marshall is now being charged with grand larceny.
The 85-year-old Marshall has his own share of woes: He underwent heart surgery last fall, suffered a minor stroke two weeks ago and slipped recently while walking on his treadmill, resulting in a concussion and a gashed left hand.
Pritchett’s testimony continues today.