Mandela on Life Support, Family Summoned

South African Nelson Mandela, who was an activist against apartheid and spent 27 years behind bars before being elected the first black president of his country, was placed on life support, said one of his family members.

Mandela, who is 94, is currently receiving treatment with a ventilator to aid him in breathing, as well as receiving renal dialysis. Family members have been told they have the option of stopping the treatments.

Mandela is currently in a hospital in Pretoria and family members have arrived and spoke briefly to people from the media outside the hospital. Ndileka Mandela, one of Mandela’s granddaughters said her grandfather was critical but stable. Ndileka also said all of the supporters surrounding the hospital were comforting to the family.

Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa visited on Thursday, a day after he canceled a trip outside the country. Zuma visited on Wednesday as well and then canceled his planned visit to Mozambique, which was an indication of the concern over Mandela’s deteriorating health. Mandela has been widely considered the father of South Africa.

Mandela was hospitalized originally on June 8 for a lung infection.

South African on Wednesday were torn between not wanting to lose a hero like Mandela, who defined  the aspiration of many of the people in his country, and the resignation that the former prisoner turned president is near the end of his full life.

Over the last few days, many celebrities, athletes, international leaders and others have given praise to Mandela, not only as the man who helped steer the country through a transition from apartheid  to democracy, but as a world symbol of reconciliation and sacrifice.