Berlusconi says his 'nightmare is over' after 6-week hospital stay
MILAN (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi smiled from a car as he left Milan's San Raffaele hospital on Friday, returning home after six weeks of treatment for a lung infection linked to chronic leukaemia.
Berlusconi, 86, was rushed to hospital on April 5 and remained in intensive care for more than 10 days, causing speculation that his life might be in danger and drawing a stream of family and friends to his bedside.
"It was an agonizing and difficult period, but after the darkness, I won again", the businessman-turned-politician said in a statement in which he expressed "great relief" and thanked well-wishers.
"The nightmare is over", he added.
Doctors have said Berlusconi is suffering from Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukaemia (CML). They have not specified when the cancer was first spotted, saying only that it was not acute.
"We'll wait for you on the field to fight many battles together," Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni - whose coalition includes Berlusconi's Forza Italia party - wrote on Twitter, welcoming her ally's discharge.
"We are all happy that you are back home, welcome back President!," said Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Forza Italia's most senior member in a government in which Berlusconi has no direct role.
Berlusconi served as prime minister in 1994-1995, 2001-2006 and 2008-2011.
His last term in office ended with a dramatic resignation, as Italy was on the brink of financial default and Berlusconi was embroiled in the infamous "bunga bunga" sex scandal, from which he was later acquitted.
In more recent years, Berlusconi's health markedly deteriorated, with open-heart surgery in 2016 and numerous hospital admissions since contracting COVID-19 three years ago.
During his latest hospitalisation, Berlusconi remained politically active, appearing in two video messages this month in which he looked frail but insisted he was ready to return to work.
There is no designated heir to replace Berlusconi at the helm of Forza Italia, and it is far from clear if the party can stick together without his leadership.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, additional reporting by Alvise Armellini; editing by John Stonestreet and Grant McCool)