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Nov 18, 2013 03:11 PM EST

Nelson Mandela, 95, Is 'Quite Ill," But Continues To Fight

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Nelson Mandela, 95, remains seriously ill, according to his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ABC News reported.

The country's first black president (1994-1999) by way of its first multi-racial election, Mandela originally became sick in June with a lung infection that led to pneumonia, according to ABC News. After beating pneumonia, he returned home in September to continue treatment for his still vulnerable lungs. A system of tubes protects his respiratory system from further infection but also prevents Mandela from speaking. Madikiela-Mandela said he communicates through facial expressions.

"He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection," she said. "When he is very relaxed, he is fine and it has given us a lot of hope."

Mandela's caretakers essentially brought the hospital to his home when they arranged his return to Johannesburg in September, ABC News reported. Twenty two doctors monitor his progress in an environment that resembles an "ICU Ward," said Madikeila-Mandela.

"It is difficult for him," she said. "He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile."

Mandela has had several serious health scares, includng a case of tuberculosis contracted towards the end of his prison sentence in 1988; dank prison conditions led to his infection. Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for opposing the government and spent the next 27 years of his life in various federal facilities. Following his 1990 release, which was broadcast live across the globe, he declared his committment to end apartheid in a peaceful, defensive manner.

Contrary to some reports, he is not on life support, said Madikeila-Mandela, ABC News reported.

"I have heard this nonsense that he is on life support. He is not," she said.

A biopic about his life self-titled, "Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom" was released earlier this year.

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