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Sen. Helms Making Slow Progress

April 28, 2002

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FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ Sen. Jesse Helms remained in a cardiac intensive care unit Sunday, recovering from surgery to replace a worn-out heart valve, his chief aide said.

``It is a gradual process,″ Jimmy Broughton said of Helm’s recovery. ``People shouldn’t expect major news everyday. He will be there a while.″

Helms, 80, underwent surgery Thursday to replace a pig valve that was installed in his heart 10 years ago. Inova Fairfax Hospital has not been releasing details on his condition.

During Thursday’s operation, a new pig valve was substituted for one that was used to replace Helms’ own mitral valve in 1992. The mitral valve guards the opening between the left upper and lower chambers of the heart. It is not unusual for pig valves to wear out and need replacement.

Surgeons also repaired Helms’ tricuspid valve between the right auricle and ventricle of the heart, which prevents blood from flowing back into the auricle.

Helms, a North Carolina Republican known for his strong conservative views, announced in 2000 he would retire in January after 30 years in the Senate.

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