By Jim Fitzgerald Associated Press
CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. — Former President Bill Clinton was recovering at his suburban home with his wife on Friday after leaving a Manhattan hospital where he underwent a heart procedure to fix a blocked artery.
Three black SUVs with tinted windows arrived around 7:45 a.m. Friday and pulled through the high gates at the house. The Westchester County hamlet of Chappaqua is about 35 miles north of New York City.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was also at the family’s home.
Clinton adviser Douglas Band said in a statement that Clinton left New York Presbyterian Hospital “in excellent health.”
“He looks forward in the days ahead to getting back to the work of his Foundation, and to Haiti relief and recovery efforts,” it said.
Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a close friend of the Clintons, told CBS’ “The Early Show” that he expects Clinton will get back to work quickly.
“If I know President Clinton, he’ll be on the phone … calling people asking for more help for Haiti and where he can get pickup trucks so they can deliver food or generators. If I know Bill Clinton, he’ll be raring to go in about 35 minutes,” McAuliffe said.
Clinton, 63, could be back at work as soon as Monday, cardiologist Allan Schwartz said previously.
A couple of hours after Clinton went home, C.J. Williams, a second-grader from New Fairfield, Conn., arrived at the cul-de-sac carrying a get well card and a red heart-shaped box filled with Skittles.
The sandy-haired boy said he wrote on the card, “Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you feel better and here’s a little heart to make your big heart feel better.” An officer told C.J. and his father that they’d have to mail the items.
Clinton had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004. He returned Thursday to have a clogged heart artery opened after suffering discomfort in his chest for several days.
Schwartz said tests had showed that one of the bypasses from the surgery was completely blocked.
Instead of trying to open the blocked bypass, doctors reopened the original clogged artery and placed two wire-mesh scaffolds called stents to keep it open. The procedure took about an hour, and Clinton was able to get up two hours later, Schwartz said.
“The procedure went very smoothly,” Schwartz said, describing Clinton’s prognosis as excellent.
The former president didn’t have a heart attack, and the new blockage was not from his diet, Schwartz said.
Clinton has done everything right since his bypass — eating well, exercising, keeping his blood pressure and cholesterol in check, said his cardiologist, Schwartz said.
“This was not a result of his lifestyle or his diet,” Schwartz said at a news conference Thursday night. Since the bypass, “he has really toed the line.”
McAuliffe said Clinton participated in a conference call on earthquake relief as he was wheeled into an operating room.
“An aide had to literally take the phone away from him,” he said.
The secretary of state went from Washington to New York to be with her husband. Their daughter, Chelsea, was also at the hospital. Aides said Mrs. Clinton plans to leave Saturday for the Persian Gulf.
During the medical procedure — called an angioplasty — doctors thread a tube through a blood vessel to the blocked artery and inflate a balloon to flatten the clog. Often, one or more stents are used to prop the artery open.
The angioplasty is usually done with the patient awake but sedated. It’s one of the most common medical procedures done worldwide. More than a million are done in the United States each year, most involving stents.
“It’s not unexpected” for Clinton to need another procedure years after his bypass, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and president of the American Heart Association.
The former president has been working in recent weeks to help relief efforts in Haiti. Since leaving office, he has maintained a busy schedule working on humanitarian projects through his foundation.
Clinton’s reputation as an unhealthy eater was sealed in 1992, when the newly minted presidential candidate took reporters on jogs to McDonald’s. He was famously spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” as a gluttonous McDonald’s customer.
Friends and family say Clinton changed his eating habits for the better after his bypass surgery.
But should Clinton slow down a little?
“Yeah, probably,” McAuliffe said. “But he’s been doing this for 63 years and you’re not going to change him. He always says, ‘It’s not about me; it’s about all those people.”’
Associated Press Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee; Beth Fouhy, Marcus Franklin and Cristian Salazar in New York; Julie Pace, Matthew Lee and Darlene Superville in Washington; and AP video journalist Ted Shaffrey in Chappaqua contributed to this report.