A day after his quintuple heart bypass, Boris Yeltsin reasserted his tenacious grip on power and demanded a report Wednesday on what went on while he was unconscious.
He nagged doctors to move him out of the Moscow Cardiological Clinic to cozier surroundings.
“I think he’s out of the woods,” American heart surgeon Michael DeBakey said after seeing Yeltsin.
“He couldn’t have carried on much longer” without the surgery and certainly couldn’t have served out the second four-year term he fought for so fiercely this summer, DeBakey said in an interview with The Associated Press.
When DeBakey first examined Yeltsin in September, “he was incapacitated, considerably incapacitated,” and his heart was working at only 20 percent. After Tuesday’s seven-hour operation, “I’d expect for him to carry out his term perfectly normally.”
Yeltsin’s wife told Russia’s Public Television that her husband was experiencing some post-surgical pain, but was in much better shape when she visited him Wednesday.
“I found him to be completely different from yesterday. His face was different. He speaks perfectly freely,” Naina Yeltsin said. “We are happy about his condition. … Today, one wants to smile.”
Naina Yeltsin said her husband was agitating “to be out of these walls as soon as possible.”
Doctors were considering moving him to the nearby Kremlin hospital, which has suites of offices and a homier atmosphere. But they cautioned that a variety of complications are possible immediately after a bypass, including bleeding and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Like other heart patients, the president will have to cut back on fatty foods and restrain his famous fondness for drink, DeBakey said.
“The use of alcohol in social functions is quite all right. It’s the habitual, excessive use that must be avoided,” he said. “And the president understands that.”
The joke making the rounds in the Russian capital was that Yeltsin’s first words after coming out of the anesthesia were “Give me a pen” - a sly reference to the presidential decrees through which he rules.
It wasn’t much of a joke. At 6 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after he was taken off the respirator, that’s exactly what happened: Yeltsin signed a decree taking back the powers, including control over the nuclear arsenal, that he has guarded so jealously against a host of challengers.
Yeltsin also sent President Clinton congratulations on his re-election, met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and requested a report on the 24 hours he was out of commission, which included a nationwide protest over unpaid wages.