February 29, 2008 / 9:05 PM / 11 years ago

Former Polish president Walesa gets heart device

HOUSTON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Doctors on Friday said they implanted a pacemaker-defibrillator in former Polish President Lech Walesa’s chest to help his weakened heart.

"He tolerated the procedure very, very well. He was in very good spirits. He woke up from anesthesia making jokes," said Walesa’s cardiologist Guillermo Torre.

Walesa, 64, entered Houston’s Methodist Hospital on Monday for treatment of chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath. He received a stent to widen a coronary artery on Thursday.

The former Polish leader, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his role in defeating communism and served as Poland’s president from 1990 to 1995, interrupted a speaking trip to Mexico to come to Houston.

Walesa could be released from the hospital on Sunday or Monday, then undergo observation and testing next week as an outpatient.

He should be able to return to Mexico to resume his schedule late next week, Torre said.

Doctors said he suffers from cardiomyopathy, a weakness of the heart, that could eventually require bypass surgery or a heart transplant, but they want to avoid those measures.

Walesa also has diabetes, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, or irregular breathing while sleeping, and doctors have prescribed medicines and treatments to deal with each, Torre said. (Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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