Video: Barbara Bush released from hospital

updated 3/13/2009 4:05:47 PM ET 2009-03-13T20:05:47

Former first lady Barbara Bush was released from a Houston hospital Friday, saying she was "feeling healthy and strong" nine days after undergoing heart surgery.

Bush, 83, thanked the doctors and staff at Methodist Hospital as she left with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush.

Doctors termed Mrs. Bush's condition, a severe narrowing of the main heart valve, as common in people of her age. The March 4 operation, in which the aortic valve was replaced with a valve from a pig, took about 2 1/2 hours.

"This Friday the 13th turned out to be a very lucky one for me, because I was able to go home with George feeling healthy and strong," Mrs. Bush said in a statement.

"Nobody ever had better medical treatment than I did this past week and a half," she added.

Her husband acknowledged last week he'd been a "nervous wreck" about the surgery.

Heart surgeon Dr. Gerald Lawrie, who led the surgical team, said Mrs. Bush will have to take it easy for at least another three weeks before resuming normal activities. He called her "a remarkable patient" and said her recovery went quickly for such a procedure.

Mrs. Bush had undergone surgery in November for a perforated ulcer. Lawrie said the two ailments were unrelated and the ulcer surgery was potentially more severe.

'It's scary'
Former President Bush said he was reassured before the operation but never considered it routine "when you come in and put a pig's valve in your wife."

"I've got to rank it up there as one of the more stressful" experiences in his life, he said, which include bailing out of a shot-up Navy plane in World War II besides his political career.

"I said: 'Oh my God.' But when you look at it realistically, ...the fact he's done so many of these successfully, that's very reassuring when you're a loving father, a loving husband."

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Condition is common
Bush said he and his wife were advised in late February, after Mrs. Bush experienced shortness of breath, that the surgery should be performed soon.

Lawrie said the condition, a severe narrowing of the main valve, is common.

"Ten percent of people in their 70s are expected to need surgery," he said, describing a valve thinner than plastic wrap that breaks down and gets stiff after flexing 3 billion times.

"Eventually, it puts severe strain on the main pumping chamber of the heart and leads to fluid in the lungs and progressive deterioration," Lawrie said. "They do wear out when we get older."

Before 1960, when the first surgeries to repair the condition were done, the ailment was fatal, he said.

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