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Florida's Graham to have heart surgery

Decision postponed on possible presidential bid

From Trish Turner
CNN Washington Bureau

Sen. Bob Graham
Sen. Bob Graham

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Bob Graham announced Thursday he will undergo heart surgery, postponing a decision on whether to seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Graham, 66, a three-term Florida Democrat who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee during the past Congress, said he will have the surgery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland the week of February 3 to fix one of his heart valves.

He said it will take four to six weeks to recover, and he will wait until then before deciding whether to run for president.

"I've known for some time that I've had a heart murmur," Graham said.

Graham underwent a physical around Christmas as part of what he described as "due diligence" as he considers a run for the White House. He then went in for more tests Tuesday, and doctors recommended the surgery, called an aortic valve replacement.

Dr. Warren Laskey, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the Bethesda facility, said Graham has no permanent damage to his heart and will be "100 percent functional" after the surgery.

"The timing of this is absolutely right on, before there is structural damage to the heart," Laskey said in a written statement.

In a letter to Graham released Thursday, Dr. John Eisold, the attending physician to Congress, said he recommended the further tests this week and they showed "that the valve had reached a point where replacement is indicated."

"While not an emergency, I recommend undergoing surgery as soon as your schedule permits. You feel well and your heart remains very healthy. Timely valve replacement will ensure that this continues and that you will remain very energetic," Eisold wrote.

Graham said doctors told him the procedure is fairly common, with a 99 percent success rate.

Graham, a former Florida governor, is a prominent moderate Democrat in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he pushed for improving intelligence capabilities and cooperation in the wake of the September 11 attacks. His name has surfaced in the past as a possible Democratic vice-presidential candidate.

Married to his wife, Adele, for more than 40 years, Graham has four daughters and 10 grandchildren.

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