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Clinton undergoing bypass surgery

Former president flooded with well-wishes


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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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Bill Clinton
Heart Surgery

(CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton on Monday was undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, hospital officials told CNN.

The surgery is being done by Dr. Craig Smith.

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 last week that he was ready to undergo the surgery. His wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea were with him.

"He should do very well in an operation like this," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN senior medical correspondent.

He predicted Clinton's chance of survival was 99 percent. Being relatively young and healthy will help, Gupta said.

An angiogram showed Clinton has blockages in some of his coronary arteries, which feed the heart muscle, Gupta said. The vessels can become blocked by fatty plaque over the years.

Gupta said he was told Clinton may have four arteries bypassed. (Interactive: Coronary artery surgery)

"This sort of operation for the past 20, almost 30 years now, has been considered a routine operation. They do almost half a million of these operations a year," Gupta said.

Gupta said the normal routine would be for Clinton to be in intensive care a day or so, then on a general ward for a few days. It will likely take two months to recover.

During that time, Clinton may experience aches in the shoulder, chest and back, and significant fatigue. Some patients also have depression, Gupta said.

Clinton was flooded with thousands of messages of support from admirers around the world in the first 24 hours after it was revealed that he faced the surgery. (Full story)

"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 Saturday.

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

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 said he had had "some difficulty every since I got out of the White House" in running distances for exercise, and had "tightness in my chest" recently, which prompted him to seek medical attention.

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

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

A medical report in January 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.

CNN's John King and Sam Feist contributed to this report.


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