The Presidential Knee Notebook (3/14/97)
Helsinki Summit Still On -- For Now (3/14/97)
The Quadriceps Tendon, courtesy of University of Pennsylvania
Doctors: Clinton May Leave Hospital Sunday
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 15) -- President Clinton munched a smuggled bagel and watched college basketball as he recovered from knee surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital Saturday.
Doctors expected the president, who was awake and in good spirits a day after surgeons repaired a torn tendon in his right knee, to be released from the hospital late Sunday.
"They suspect tentatively, probably sometime tomorrow late afternoon would be the likely time he'll be able to depart, but hold that open until they see how he's doing," White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters.
The Saudi royal family sent Clinton four huge arrangements of red roses, white orchids and yellow lilies. But they never made it to the president's room because of concerns they would aggravate his allergies.
The flowers were placed in a closed room off the reception area, and a uniformed naval aide was put in charge of keeping them watered.
Clinton was being kept in the hospital as doctors adjusted his pain medication and helped him begin physical therapy. He will remain on crutches and in a thigh-to-ankle leg brace for at least a couple of months.
"We surely don't want him walking on this for a while," Dr. David Adkison, the president's chief surgeon at Bethesda Naval Hospital, told CNN.
The president underwent surgery Friday after stumbling on steps early that morning at the Florida home of pro golfer Greg Norman. Adkison said the two-hour surgery was a successful "standard operation."
Clinton on non-narcotic painkillers
Around noon Saturday, doctors removed the spinal tap that had been feeding anesthetic to Clinton's lower body.
Doctors started him on two non-narcotic painkillers: Toradol and Ultran. The president also was taking the muscle relaxant Robaxin after experiencing occasional muscle spasms, McCurry said.
"The doctors obviously could knock out all the pain he's experiencing, but the president's choice was to use a non-narcotic drug and not to be sedated," he added.
Before being released from the hospital, Clinton will have to meet certain "goals" outlined by his doctors, such as being able to eat properly and limiting the pain in his knee, said Dr. Marlene De Maio, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital.
Helsinki trip still on the agenda
Doctors said the injury would not jeopardize a planned trip to Helsinki, Finland, during which the president will meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin for a two-day summit. The president plans to leave Tuesday.
"He can travel," Adkison said. "Flying on Air Force One, I understand, is not like flying on a commercial airline."
To minimize risk of re-injuring the knee, the president will be accompanied by a physical therapist and an extra doctor, in addition to the three-person medical team that normally travels with him.
White House furniture rearranged
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton walked around the first family's private residence with the physical therapist who is joining Clinton's medical team during his six-month rehabilitation.
The therapist pointed out which furniture will need to be moved, and recommended that rugs be anchored better to accommodate someone on crutches.
Hillary Clinton, who was to leave on a two-week trip to Africa Saturday with daughter Chelsea, put off the departure for a day so she could spend time with her husband in the hospital.
Vice President Al Gore, filling in for Clinton during the president's weekly radio address, said the president was recuperating well.
"He'll be back on his feet -- both of them -- very soon," Gore said.
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