JFK Was Sicker Than the Public Knew

John F. Kennedy’s thick head of hair and perpetual tan weren’t due to being fit and healthy. Just the opposite, they were side effects of one of the many drugs he took for a variety of ailments. His life, it turns out, was one of a hidden ordeal of pills and injections to address his degenerative bone disease and other medical conditions. In reality, without medication Kennedy was barely able to climb a flight of stairs or put on his own socks. X-rays showed that some of his vertebrae had collapsed while he was still in his 30s. In fact, in the mid-1950s, he had 9 secret hospital stays during a 2½-year period. Another revelation was the sheer quantity of medications Kennedy took daily during his presidency. They included steroids for his Addison’s disease, painkillers for his back, antispasmodics for his colitis, antibiotics for urinary-tract infections, and antihistamines for allergies. Historians have long complained that Kennedy’s inner circle had been secretive and worse about his health. While preparing his 1993 book President Kennedy: Profile of Power, author Richard Reeves had requested access to JFK’s medical records, but was refused. He did succeed in interviewing the surgeons who performed Kennedy's 1954 back operation, as well as Dr. Hans Kraus, who oversaw his physical therapy. “All of them told me they were asked to destroy certain records, and they did,” said Reeves.