Clinton surgery successful |

Clinton surgery successful


NEW YORK – Bill Clinton underwent a successful quadruple heart bypass operation Monday to relieve severely clogged arteries that had put the former president at high risk of suffering a heart attack.

“He is recovering normally at this point,” said Dr. Craig R. Smith, the surgeon who led the operation. “Right now everything looks straightforward.”

Smith said Clinton could leave the hospital in four or five days. Doctors said they expect him to make a full recovery, although the heart disease they repaired was “extensive.”

The four-hour surgery came three days after Clinton checked himself into the hospital complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. Tests soon revealed that blockage in several of Clinton’s arteries was “well over 90 percent,” Smith said.

“There was a substantial likelihood that he would have had a substantial heart attack” in the near future, said Dr. Allan Schwartz, chief of cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.

Schwartz said Clinton was awake but sedated about four hours after the operation ended. He still was using a breathing tube and had not spoken yet, he said.

In a statement, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the couple’s daughter, Chelsea, thanked the hospital staff for helping the family through an “emotional roller-coaster.”

“The president’s optimism and faith will carry him through the difficult weeks and months ahead,” the statement said.

In bypass surgery, doctors remove one or more blood vessels from elsewhere in the body and attach them to arteries serving the heart, detouring blood around blockages.

The vessel typically comes from elsewhere in the chest, although doctors sometimes take one from an arm, a leg or the stomach.

“There was nothing in this case that was outside the realm of routine,” Smith said.

Schwartz said it would be possible for Clinton in the future to lead an “extraordinarily active lifestyle” – including hitting the campaign trail.

Doctors decided not to operate immediately on Friday because Clinton was on the blood-thinning medication Plavix, and waiting a few days decreased the chance of excessive bleeding, they said.

Clinton was described as upbeat in the days before the surgery, resting with his wife and daughter. One New York Post photo showed the former president reaching for a Boggle game near his hospital-room window.

Clinton has blamed the blockage in part on genetics – there is a history of heart disease in his mother’s family – but also said he “may have done some damage in those years when I was too careless about what I ate.”

He was lampooned during his presidency for his inability to resist fatty fast food, but he was also an avid jogger during his two terms in the White House.

In recent months he has appeared much slimmer. He has said he cut out junk food, begun working out and adopted the low-carbohydrate, lowfat South Beach diet.

Clinton had planned to campaign for Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, but the recovery from surgery will take him off the stump with just two months left until the election.

From his hospital room before the surgery, Clinton had a long telephone conversation with Kerry on campaign strategy, said a Democratic official familiar with the talk who spoke on condition of anonymity. Some polls have shown Kerry trailing President Bush since the Republican convention last week.

Meanwhile, more than 37,000 get-well wishes poured in for the former president, including tens of thousands of e-mails sent to the Web site of his presidential library.

“You are surrounded by cherished family, friends and a nation that adores you and prays for your full and complete recovery,” wrote Toni Maryanna Rossi. “You’ll be jogging 5 miles a day in no time.”

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