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Inside Politics

Bill Clinton awaits heart surgery next week

'I've got a chance to deal with it,' he tells CNN

From John King and Ed Henry
CNN Washington Bureau

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Bill Clinton talks to CNN about his upcoming bypass surgery.

A heart surgeon describes the procedure.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: Bill Clinton in good spirits.
Bill Clinton
Heart Surgery

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton said he feels "a little scared, but not much" as he waits to undergo heart bypass surgery scheduled for early next week.

Clinton was in New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Friday after complaining the previous day about chest pain and shortness of breath.

He called in to CNN's "Larry King Live" from the hospital.

Clinton seemed to be in good spirits as he joked with King.

"Let me just say this, Republicans aren't the only people who want four more years here," Clinton said.

Clinton is at the hospital with his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea.

"I feel really blessed, you know, because a lot of people who have a heart attack never get any advance warning," Clinton said.

Earlier, Clinton's office issued this statement:

"The former president went to Northern Westchester Hospital yesterday afternoon after experiencing mild chest pain and shortness of breath. Initial testing was normal and he spent the night at home in nearby Chappaqua, New York. After undergoing additional testing this morning at Westchester Medical Center, doctors advised he should undergo bypass surgery."

Clinton described how he decided to see a doctor.

"I just had a feeling a couple of days ago I had to have it checked, when I finally got some tightness in my chest. And I hadn't done any exercise. That's the first time that ever happened to me, and we did this angiogram and found out I had blockage that was too significant to open and put a stent in. We had to do the whole surgery," Clinton said.

Senator Clinton said during an afternoon press conference that there would be no further reports on his health until after the surgery.

"He's going to be fine," she said. "He's going to be back in fighting form before very long."

She said her husband was grateful for the "outpouring of concern." She also asked that anyone wishing to offer support should send a personal message through his Web site,

Clinton said he is familiar with the procedure and isn't as frightened "as I thought I'd be."

"I guess I'm a little scared, but not much," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. I want to get back -- I want to see what it's like to run five miles again."

The Clintons had been scheduled to tour the New York State Fair in Syracuse on Friday afternoon.

Senator Clinton cut the fair visit short. She said the former president had expected to join her, but after the tests, his doctors had advised him to have the bypass surgery "as soon as he could."

President Bush and his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry, both wished Clinton well from the campaign trail.

"He is in our thoughts and prayers. We send him our best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery," Bush told an audience in West Allis, Wisconsin.

"Every single one of us wants to extend to him our best wishes, our prayers and our thoughts," Kerry said during a rally in Newark, Ohio. "And I want you all to let a cheer out and clap that he can hear all the way to New York, all the way to New York."

Above-normal cholesterol in 2001

Clinton, 58, has been in good health with no known history of heart problems.

A medical report in January of 2001 showed he had an above-normal cholesterol level and borderline high blood pressure.

During his presidency, Clinton had a reputation for eating fast-food meals.

"Some of this is genetic, and I may have done some damage in those years when I was too careless about what I ate," Clinton said Friday night. "So for whatever reason, I've got a problem, and I've got a chance to deal with it."

Since leaving office, Clinton has lost weight, and he told talk show host Oprah Winfrey that he had gone on The South Beach Diet.

Sunday, Clinton delivered what was described as an energetic and forceful speech at the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan.

Clinton was on the campaign trail Monday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, stumping for Rep. Joe Hoeffel, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate running against incumbent Arlen Specter. (Special report: America Votes 2004, Pennsylvania's races)

And Wednesday, Clinton attended a book signing in New Orleans, Louisiana.

During that appearance, Clinton was asked about his weight loss after leaving office.

"I work out a lot, and I went on The South Beach Diet for a while, that helped, but the combination -- I have a wonderful man that comes in two or three times a week and we work out," he said.

"You know when you get older you really got to watch it. It gets harder. The older I get, the harder it is [to watch my weight]."

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