Kerry to have surgery on shoulder

After minor procedure, senator will take time off

March 28, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sen. John Kerry plans to take about four days off the campaign trail this week to have minor surgery on his right shoulder. He aggravated a years-old injury while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in Iowa in January.

Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's communications director, said that the procedure was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston but that details remained sketchy because Kerry's doctor was on vacation.

Cutter said Kerry would spend several days at home in Boston after the outpatient procedure, which typically lasts less than an hour. He will undergo some physical therapy, she said, and face some restrictions on using his arm.

"The recovery is not that long," Cutter said. "I think for a week he'll wear a sling, just so people don't touch his arm. But after that, he'll be OK."

Aides said that Kerry, 60, had a slight tear in a tendon from the subscapularis muscle, which helps movement of the shoulder. The tear apparently occurred aboard his campaign bus as it rattled through Iowa but is related to a shoulder injury he suffered while bicycling several years ago, Kerry said.

The shoulder strain did not stop Kerry from a weeklong skiing and snowboarding vacation at his retreat in Ketchum, Idaho, that ended Wednesday, or from riding his racing bike during a rare day at home in Boston a few weeks before.

Some campaign aides were concerned about scheduling the surgery, which is elective, because they feared it would hamper the candidate's interaction with voters or his ability to use body language to punctuate his presentations. Some also worried that even though it is minor and unrelated, the surgery could revive memories of Kerry's struggle with prostate cancer last year, which slowed his momentum at what seemed like a critical time in the nascent nomination battle.

When Kerry went on vacation, some Democrats worried that he was leaving himself vulnerable to negative portrayals in President Bush's television advertisements while he was relatively unknown to many voters.

But if taking more time off from campaigning meant a similar risk, Kerry aides said, they wanted to schedule the surgery sooner rather than later, figuring the race would get only more intense.

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