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Inside Politics

Clinton flooded with well-wishes before surgery

'I've got a chance to deal with' heart problem, 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.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton has been flooded with messages of support from admirers around the world since it was revealed that he faces heart bypass surgery, a spokesman said.

"I can tell you that the president has received more than 15,000 messages of support overnight via his foundation's Web site," Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said.

Clinton, 58, was brought to New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Friday, a day after he experienced mild chest pain and shortness of breath. He said he is ready to undergo heart bypass surgery early next week.

Excerpts from some of Clinton's well-wishers are posted on Clintonfoundation.org. There's also a form on the site to submit additional wishes.

Kennedy said the former president is resting and is expecting an uneventful Saturday evening.

Interviewed Friday by telephone on CNN's "Larry King Live," Clinton said he was optimistic about his recovery.

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.

On Friday, 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.

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."

Vice President Dick Cheney called Clinton earlier Saturday from Nevada and wished him well.

President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry both wished Clinton well from the campaign trail Friday.

Above-normal cholesterol in 2001

Clinton, 58, has been in relatively 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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