Florida Sen. Graham undergoes successful heart surgery


Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 10:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Bob Graham of Florida underwent heart surgery Friday and is expected to take a month to recuperate before deciding whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

Capitol physician Dr. John Eisold, Graham's attending doctor, said the "uncomplicated procedure" went well and the senator was in stable condition in the cardiac intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The 66-year-old Graham "is resting comfortably," Eisold said. "We anticipate a full recovery."

During the operation, the doctors replaced the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta, the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood through the body.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Alan Speir of Annandale, Va. Speir replaced Graham's aortic valve with a heart valve from a cow. Doctors had planned to give him an artificial valve, but changed their approach and used a "bioprosthesis" because a mechanical valve would have required him to take blood-thinning medication for the rest of his life, Graham aides said.

Graham, the former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been an outspoken critic of White House policy on terrorism and made known late last year that he was considering joining the already-crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge President Bush in the 2004 presidential elections.

But a week ago, Graham said he had undergone medical tests in preparation for announcing his presidential run and learned of his heart condition. He said he would reassess his presidential bid after recovering from the surgery.

Eisold said the senator is expected to remain in the hospital for four to five days and then convalesce at home for up to 10 days. He should be able to resume light duties by the end of February and be back to full strength within six weeks, the doctor said.

Graham's office said he expects to decide on running for president around March 1. The senator said earlier this week that he "is likely to run," but he will assess his energy level after several weeks and consider "the political landscape" at that time.

He was Florida governor from 1979 to 1987, and was first elected to the Senate in 1986. He has won strong support in his home state for his work in such areas as Medicare prescription drug coverage and restoration of the Everglades, and easily won re-election in 1992 and 1998.

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