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Bill's Heart Scare

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Only when he was on an operating table in Manhattan’s New York-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital the morning of Feb. 11 did Bill Clinton reluctantly give up his cell phone. Even then the former President, a U.N. special envoy to Haiti, couldn’t stop thinking about earthquake-relief efforts. “He didn’t want to be sedated,” says Clinton counselor Doug Band. During the hour-plus procedure, “he talked to the doctors and nurses about Haiti for much of the time.”

Two days earlier, bothered by mild chest pain, Clinton had called his doctor—an unusual move, a friend says, because “he’s not the type to visit the doctor.” Good thing he did: Clinton, who underwent a quadruple bypass in 2004, had a blockage in his heart.

Remarkably, less than 24 hours after a cardiologist inserted two mesh stents to reopen the clogged coronary artery, Clinton, 63, was home in Chappaqua, N.Y., looking relaxed and telling reporters he felt “great. I even did a couple of miles on the treadmill today.”

Too soon? No, says Dr. Allan Schwartz (who oversaw the procedure; see box): “He did not have damage to his heart. I told him he could get back to the office by Monday.”

Great news for the type A globe-trotter who in the last month made two trips to Haiti and one to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. But for now he’s taking it easy. On Feb. 12, he strolled with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and before she left for the Persian Gulf, he arranged to have her plane stocked with pink roses for Valentine’s Day. The next day, Clinton, daughter Chelsea, 30, her fiancé Marc Mezvinsky, 32, and Mezvinsky’s mom, Marjorie, lunched at Chappaqua eatery Le Jardin du Roi. “He’s looking forward to walking Chelsea down the aisle,” says his friend. But don’t expect Clinton to rest for long. “I have to keep working,” the former President said. “It’s what my life is for.”