- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton was talking and taking liquids yesterday, a day after undergoing an operation to relieve four severely clogged arteries, a hospital source told the Associated Press.

Mr. Clinton remained in intensive care at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, and his spirits were “fine,” the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The source described the scene at the Manhattan hospital as swarming with Secret Service and hospital security personnel.

The former president was taken off his respirator Monday night, a crucial step in his recovery, said Dr. Bob Kelly, a member of Mr. Clinton’s surgery team.

“Everything is going very well,” Dr. Kelly told NBC’s “Today” show.

Mr. Clinton’s doctors will decide when he can be moved out of the intensive care unit. It was possible he would go to the hospital’s McKeen Pavilion, where patients are treated to a piano player at a daily complimentary high tea. Other perks include meals prepared by a gourmet chef and concierge service.

Mr. Clinton was expected to leave the hospital in four or five days.

Doctors performed the four-hour quadruple bypass operation on Monday and found that Mr. Clinton’s heart disease was extensive, with blockages in some arteries well over 90 percent. Doctors said Mr. Clinton was in grave danger of having a heart attack in the near future.

Mr. Clinton, 58, went to the hospital last week after complaining of prolonged chest pain and shortness of breath, but doctors said those symptoms were actually present for several months. They said he had blamed the symptoms on lapses in his exercise routine and acid reflux.

In bypass surgery, doctors remove one or more blood vessels from elsewhere in the body — in Mr. Clinton’s case, two arteries from the chest and a vein from the leg — and attach them to arteries serving the heart, detouring around blockages.

Mr. Clinton had planned to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, but the recovery will take him off the stump with just eight weeks left until the election.

It is “too soon to know what will be possible,” said Jim Kennedy, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman. “As the doctors said, it will be two to three months before he is 100 percent recovered.”

Before the surgery, Mr. Clinton had been scheduled at a book signing of his memoir in Baltimore and a book party in Washington yesterday, Mr. Kennedy said.

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