CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Former President Bill Clinton (search) left the hospital and returned to his Westchester home Friday, four days after undergoing heart bypass surgery, his office said.
The 58-year-old former president arrived at his home in the suburban community of Chappaqua at 6:30 p.m., about 45 minutes after being discharged.
"The president is in good spirits and has taken short walks in the hospital hallway and in his home today," Clinton spokesman Jim Kennedy said in a statement.
In a message sent through his spokesman, Clinton, his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search), and their daughter Chelsea said: "We appreciate more than words can say all the good wishes and messages of concern that we received during this difficult time in our lives.
"Your thoughts and prayers meant so much to us, and helped keep our spirits strong," they said. "We feel blessed to have such support, and it will continue to sustain us throughout the months of recuperation that remain ahead."
The family also thanked the doctors and nurses at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia (search), where the former president underwent heart bypass surgery on Monday.
Clinton traveled home in a motorcade of four SUVs and a police motorbike escort.
The former president was taken off his respirator and placed in an intensive care unit on Monday night. On Wednesday, he was moved back to his hospital room, where he walked with assistance, sat in his bed and sat up in his chair.
Doctors who performed the four-hour quadruple bypass operation found that Clinton's heart disease was extensive, with blockages in some arteries well over 90 percent.
Clinton went to the hospital late last week after complaining of prolonged chest pain and shortness of breath, but doctors revealed Monday that he'd had these symptoms for several months. They said he had blamed them on lapses in his exercise routine and acid reflux.
He has been inundated with thousands of well-wishes and flowers. Kennedy's statement Friday said more than 85,000 get-well messages have been received.
Clinton had planned to campaign for Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, but the recovery from surgery will stall his activities with just eight weeks left until the election. It was not immediately clear how soon he could return to the campaign trail.
In bypass surgery, doctors remove one or more blood vessels from elsewhere in the body — in Clinton's case, two arteries from the chest and a vein from the leg — and attach them to arteries serving the heart, detouring around blockages.
The team of surgeons operating on Clinton was led by Dr. Craig R. Smith, the hospital's chief of cardiothoracic surgery.