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Paterson receives glaucoma surgery

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NEW YORK - Gov. David Paterson has been diagnosed with acute glaucoma in his left eye and was undergoing an outpatient laser procedure yesterday, his office said.

The governor, who is blind in his left eye and has only limited vision in his right, received the diagnosis after admitting himself to a hospital with symptoms of a severe headache. He was undergoing an iridotomy, an operation that will not have any long-term effect on the governor's overall health, a statement from his office said.

"The governor will remain conscious throughout the procedure, but in an abundance of caution, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker were advised of this, pursuant to standard protocol," the statement said.

Mr. Paterson went to the Mount Sinai Medical Center earlier yesterday after experiencing what his office called "migrainelike symptoms" in the middle of the night.

Dr. Gregory Harmon, a Manhattan ophthalmologist and chairman of the Glaucoma Foundation, said it sounds like the governor probably suffered an attack of acute angle closure glaucoma, which is an emergency situation that occurs when fluids that normally drain freely from the eye suddenly become completely blocked.

The condition leads to an immediate buildup in pressure within the eye. It is incredibly painful and causes not only headaches but, in some cases, vomiting owing to the severity of the agony.

Dr. Harmon said the best treatment is an emergency laser iridotomy, which creates a microscopic hole in the iris that lets fluid drain. The procedure is brief, relatively risk-free, and usually clears up the problem instantly.

Mr. Paterson, who lives in the governor's mansion but has an apartment in Harlem, was in New York to speak at yesterday's commencement at Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor's degree. The Democrat was to receive a medal of excellence, but his office canceled the appearance.

His wife, Michelle, came to Mount Sinai several hours after he checked in.

Mr. Paterson, who turned 54 yesterday, was sworn in as New York's governor March 17 after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. He served as Mr. Spitzer's lieutenant governor for 14 months.

When he succeeded Mr. Spitzer, New York was left without a second-in-command. Voters won't pick a new lieutenant governor until the next gubernatorial election in November 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, is next in line of succession. Mr. Bruno said he learned the governor was in the hospital around 6 a.m. yesterday.

He noted that Mr. Paterson recently had put him in charge of the executive branch when the governor was in Washington for meetings, and greeted him on the phone with "Hi, governor." The two men are friends.

The legally blind governor lost most of his sight after an infection as an infant. He can see shapes and usually recognizes people as they approach.