Hospital reports Ted Williams making `gratifying progress'

Artificial pump removed, but he's still on ventilator

January 20, 2001|By BOSTON GLOBE

NEW YORK - The artificial pump that helped Ted Williams' heart function after Monday's surgery has been removed and he is being given fewer medications, leading his doctor yesterday to say the Boston Red Sox legend is making "very gratifying progress."

But there's still a rocky road ahead. Williams remains on a ventilator, which poses a risk of pneumonia or other infections. He's still heavily sedated, continues to require drug support and is attached to three intravenous lines, although a catheter going to his heart has been removed.

"The cardiac recovery is not yet complete, but he clearly is moving in the right direction," said Jeffrey Borer, the cardiologist at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center (of New York Presbyterian Hospital) in Manhattan.

Williams, 82, spent 9 1/2 hours in the operating room Monday. A team of 14 doctors, nurses, and technicians fixed a leak in the mitral valve on the left side of his heart, replacing it with pig tissue. They also found worrisome stretching of the ring holding the tricuspid valve in place on the right side, so they tightened it with sutures.

Since the surgery, the amount of blood his heart pumps each minute has increased to the point where doctors Thursday felt it was safe to remove the balloon pump. The blood pressure in his lungs has gone down, which is another good sign, Borer said. And his kidneys and other organs are functioning well.

"We're entering a time now in which our concerns shift a little bit from the heart, not that we're out of the woods yet with heart function," he said.

"Our concerns now begin to turn to potential complications with noncardiac areas, specifically infection. He's been on a respirator now for five days and we must be extremely vigilant that he doesn't develop pneumonia."

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