Clinton recuperates painfully at hospital President watches TV, escapes Gridiron roasting

March 16, 1997|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

BETHESDA -- President Clinton, experiencing post-surgical pain, rested fitfully at the naval hospital here yesterday, doing crossword puzzles and watching college basketball.

The only work the president undertook was to peruse a couple of briefing papers prepared by his national security staff, including one dealing with the crisis in Albania, aides said.

Clinton also taped remarks for the white-tie Gridiron Dinner, where a select group of Washington journalists satirizes the president, other politicians and life in general in the nation's capital.

Clinton was to be the guest of honor -- he gives as good as he gets at the annual dinner -- but that chore fell to Vice President Al Gore. White House aides, bantering with reporters beforehand, suggested only half-jokingly that missing the dinner was the only solace available to the injured president.

"The pain the Gridiron inflicts extends higher longitudinally than the knee," quipped White House press secretary Mike McCurry.

The president tore the quadriceps tendon in his right leg early Friday morning after taking a misstep at the Florida mansion of golf pro Greg Norman. The tendon connects the kneecap to the upper thigh. The injury is extremely painful, but not crippling.

Clinton's recuperation period is expected to last from six months to a year, but his first small step to recovery came yesterday when his physicians stretched his leg out.

Dr. David P. Adkison, the orthopedic surgeon who reattached the tendon Friday, said yesterday that he slowly moved the president's right knee up and down several times, something that will be repeated several times daily during the early stages of recovery.

"The president is fine," Adkison said. "He slept comfortably and is in good spirits."

The doctor added that without adequate painkillers, a patient with this injury would be in excruciating pain. "Every corpuscle of blood goes to your knee and it just goes 'Boom!' It throbs badly."

Doctors prescribed two painkillers, Toradol and Ultran, and a muscle relaxant, Robaxin.

McCurry told reporters the president would likely be released from the hospital this afternoon.

When he returns to the White House, Clinton will be wearing a flexible, thigh-to-calf brace and confined to crutches for at least eight weeks. The president still plans to go to Helsinki Tuesday -- first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the couple's daughter, Chelsea, were to depart for Africa this afternoon -- but Gore is a likely stand-in at tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day festivities at the White House, McCurry said.

The vice president filled in for the president in delivering the weekly radio address. Gore stuck to the theme Clinton was to have highlighted, the administration's proposals to use federal dollars for local school construction bonds.

Administration budget officials believe their $5 billion plan could spur some $20 billion in needed school repairs and construction.

"Any educational progress we achieve is at risk if our students are asked to learn in a landscape littered with peeling paint and broken glass," Gore said.

"We simply cannot ask teachers to build up our children in buildings that are literally falling down. Our children deserve buildings that shine as brightly as their hearts."

About the boss, Gore simply said: "The president's doing great. He's resting comfortably and he'll be back on his feet -- both of them -- very soon."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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