Governor to undergo surgery to relieve shoulder pain


Gov. Ted Kulongoski will undergo surgery this morning to relieve a condition that has inflamed a nerve in his right arm and shoulder, causing him increasing pain and limiting his mobility in recent months, Kulongoski's office said Wednesday.

The procedure, known as a posterior cervical laminectomy, will be performed at an undisclosed Portland-area hospital, said Chip Terhune, the governor's chief of staff.

Kulongoski, 66, will be placed under general anesthesia for an hour or so and will be kept in the hospital overnight for observation before returning to Mahonia Hall, the governor's official residence in south Salem, on Friday morning, Terhune said.

"This is nothing serious or cause for concern at all," Terhune said. "We're simply notifying the public that the governor is going to have a little down time here for a very good reason."

The surgery is designed to give compressed vertebrae near the base of the neck more room, taking pressure off the spinal cord.

Kulongoski is scheduled to return to his office in the state Capitol on Monday, although full recovery from the surgery is expected to take six to eight weeks, Terhune said.

As a precaution, the governor sent a letter Wednesday to Maj. Gen. Fred Rees, who commands the Oregon National Guard, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and State Treasurer Randall Edwards, informing them of his surgery.

In an emergency, Rees would notify Bradbury to take charge of state government. If Bradbury was unavailable, those duties would then would fall to Edwards.

This isn't the first surgery Kulongoski has undergone during his 30-year career in public service.

In 2001, Kulongoski, then a state Supreme Court justice, was the last major candidate to jump into the 2002 governor's race. He had planned to formally enter the race in early 2001, but the announcement was delayed by a diagnosis of prostate cancer and surgery.

Kulongoski has said his doctors have told him he's now free of signs of the disease.

The Democratic governor is known as a fitness buff who's an avid fly fisherman, golfer and hiker. However, he's had to curtail those activities in recent months as the pain in his shoulder and arm worsened.

Terhune said doctors have told the governor he can expect to fully resume those activities once he's recovered from the surgery.

Further, he said, the surgery likely won't keep Kulongoski from his gubernatorial duties for long.

"My guess is that the moment he leaves the hospital, he will be on the cell phone to his staff wanting to know what's been going on," Terhune said.

Share This Story