Kitty Dukakis, wife of Democratic presidential candidate and Gov....


BOSTON -- Kitty Dukakis, wife of Democratic presidential candidate and Gov. Michael Dukakis, underwent five hours of successful surgery Friday to repair two ruptured disks in her neck, which threatened to damage her spinal cord.

Two disks from her neck were removed and replaced by bone grafts from her hip, doctors said.


'The first thing she said to me was that she wanted an ice cream and a massage,' said the governor, who suspended his campaign to fly back from California to be with her. 'We're very, very relieved and very pleased.'

Mrs. Dukakis was taken to the operating room at Massachusetts General Hospital about 6:30 a.m. EDT and the surgical procedure was begun at about 8 a.m. by a team of three surgeons.

Doctors said the procedure, known as a cervical laminectomy and fusion, was completed about 1 p.m.

'Mrs. Dukakis is well, she's awake, she's neurologically intact and everybody's very happy,' said Dr. Nicholas Zervas, chief of neurosurgery and a longtime family friend.


'She can move her arms and legs very well,' Zervas said. 'She told me the numbness and tingling that she had all over her body seems to have disappeared so far. She has no weakness whatsoever.'

Zervas said Mrs. Dukakis was a 'terrific' patient, asking who would perform the operation. When he told her it would be Dr. Lawrence Borges, she responded 'You make sure he goes to the press conference then.'

'There were no problems at all,' said Borges, neurological spine service chief who removed the disks that doctors believe were weakened by a lifetime of stress, including her limited dancing career.

'Given her problem with the disks pressing directly on the spinal cord we were concerned about losing spinal cord function,' said Borges. 'In its worst situation, that could mean paralysis from the shoulders down.'

He termed her prognosis as 'excellent,' although the 51-year-old mother of three will remain in the intensive care unit overnight and be in the hospital for about a week.

Mrs. Dukakis will wear a cervical collar to support her neck for six to eight weeks until the bone grafts heal, and would likely limp for some time due to the incision on her hip, the surgeons said at a news conference attended by the governor and other relatives.


She may also lose some mobility in her neck, said Dr. Frederick Mansfield, an orthopedic surgery spine specialist, adding 'when it's all healed, she probably won't notice very much limitation.'

Borges said Mrs. Dukakis would be able to resume campaigning for her husband sometime within the next six to eight weeks.

Dukakis missed a fund-raising event and canceled a Thursday debate with rival Jesse Jackson in California to fly to Boston to be with his wife, who entered the hospital Wednesday night for examination and treatment.

The governor said his campaign plans through the June 7 primaries and beyond would remain tentative depending on his wife's recovery, but he hoped to resume a limited schedule beginning with a weekend trip to New Jersey.

Dukakis said he did not believe he could honor Jesse Jackson's request to reschedule a debate cancelled after he flew to his wife's side Thursday night.

Mrs. Dukakis flew to Boston Wednesday from Tucson, Ariz., where she had been campaigning for her husband. She said the problem has caused numbness in her left hand and right arm, as well as 'hot patches' on her legs and back and around her waist.

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