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Tuesday January 16, 2001

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Doctor says former president recovering well after hip surgery

By The Associated Press

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Former President Reagan faces months of difficult physical therapy after undergoing surgery to repair a broken hip.

Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and nearing his 90th birthday Feb. 6, fell Friday at his Bel-Air home. Doctors used a pin, plate and screws to repair the joint Saturday in a 65-minute operation.

The first step in what is expected to be lengthy and painful physical therapy will be to have Reagan sit up, said Joanne Drake, his chief of staff.

"He is taking very little pain medication which, according to Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, his orthopedic surgeon, is quite remarkable for a patient with a hip repair of this nature," Drake said.

Ehrhart said after the operation that Reagan's tissue and bone were remarkably like that of a "much younger man, which obviously helps substantially with his recovery."

However, the surgeon said, Reagan still faces a "long, uphill struggle."

Mrs. Reagan has been at her husband's side since the fall. "She spent the night again in his room," Drake said.

The couple's 49th wedding anniversary is March 4, when the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is scheduled to be christened by the former first lady.

Mrs. Reagan was buoyed by the outpouring of well-wishes from around the world, Drake said, including messages from former Presidents Bush and Ford as well as President-elect George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

President Clinton sent a message to the former president and his family on Sunday.

"Hillary and I are relieved that President Reagan's treatment for his injury appears to have been successful," Clinton said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the president, his wife, Nancy, and the entire Reagan family during this difficult period. We join all Americans in wishing him a speedy recovery."

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Sunday, dozens of well-wishers signed a giant get-well note surrounded by bouquets of flowers.

"Godspeed in your recovery. America cannot thank you enough," wrote Christian Horton of the Los Angeles suburb of Mission Hills.

Mrs. Reagan urged well-wishers to send greetings to the Reagan Foundation Web site.

Reagan's son Michael and daughter Patti Davis visited their father on Saturday and son Ron was expected within a few days.

Maureen Reagan, the 60-year-old daughter of Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, has been undergoing cancer treatment at the same hospital since Dec. 11. Her husband Dennis Revell said she was "hanging in there."

At 69, Ronald Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president of the United States.



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