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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin 'Out of the Woods,' DeBakey Says

The surgeon who operated on Boris Yeltsin's heart has said that at one point last summer he thought the president beyond rescue, but prognoses remained upbeat Sunday, with one doctor saying Yeltsin was "out of the woods" and could be playing tennis again in six to eight weeks.


Dr. Renat Akchurin was positive about the president's recovery from last Tuesday's quintuple-bypass surgery. But he revealed in an interview on ORT television Saturday night that "Yeltsin seemed a hopeless coronary patient at first sight."


Akchurin said internal bleeding had initially caused anemia and seemed to preclude any hope the operation could take place.


But the president quickly healed under pre-operative treatment, ultimately responding so fast that the date of surgery was moved four days ahead of schedule to Nov. 5, Akchurin said.


Although the Kremlin had done its best to dispel rumors, several of Yeltsin's reported health problems had set off speculation, right up to the week of the operation, that the president would not be able to undergo surgery.


But Yeltsin's doctors have been very reassuring about the president's recovery. American cardiologist Michael DeBakey on Sunday said the president will be a "new man" once he fully recovers.


DeBakey, who served as a senior adviser to the surgery but was not present in the operating room, said Yeltsin should be able to play tennis and volleyball in six to eight weeks.


"He's got a good normal heart now, so you see he's going to be a new, vigorous man," DeBakey said, shortly before flying home to Houston, Texas. "He's, in my opinion, as we say, out of the woods."


After cardiologists met to discuss the pace of the president's recovery, the Kremlin issued a bulletin Sunday that pronounced Yeltsin's condition "satisfactory."


"The patient has been allowed to move around for two to 2 1/2 hours a day," the Kremlin bulletin said. The president's blood pressure, pulse and temperature were all reported stable. doctors on about the pace of his convalescence.


"Yeltsin is despotic to his own self," Akchurin said in the ORT interview, describing the president's apparently rapid recovery.


Akchurin also said the surgery lasted six hours and not the seven hours that were initially reported by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky.


Doctors and Kremlin officials have waged a high-profile campaign to show how fast Yeltsin is recovering, an impression the president has helped by taking back his powers less than 24 hours after the start of the operation and issuing at least one decree since then.


Viktor Kremenyuk, a political observer with the USA/Canada Institute, said the Kremlin is meticulously painting an image of a "rejuvenated Yeltsin."


"They want to make it as if today or tomorrow the president will be sitting behind his desk, issuing orders," Kremenyuk said. "They are writing a new legend about the president. And people tend to believe the legends they themselves write."