The surgery will remove a rare buildup of fluid and scar tissue that is pressing on his left lung -- a complication from his heart surgery six months ago. The condition was discovered during a recent X-ray and is considered low-risk. Clinton said he knew he needed the operation before he and Bush embarked on a tour of tsunami-ravaged countries last month and scheduled it around the trip and the charity golf event.
'I've had an unusual life. If something happens -- if I get struck by lightning on the golf course today -- I'd wind up ahead of where 99.99 percent of the people that ever lived,' Clinton said. 'I'm just grateful for every day when the sun comes up. But it is not a dangerous procedure, unless something totally unpredictable happens.'
Sitting with Bush and golfer Greg Norman, who organized the charity tournament, Clinton joked about a previous visit he made to Norman's Jupiter Island home. During that 1997 visit, then-President Clinton planned two days of golf but stumbled on some steps and ended up in the hospital with a knee injury instead.
'At least I get to play before I go to the hospital this time,' Clinton said, sitting indoors next to a fireplace on an unusually chilly and rainy Florida day.
The tournament at the Medalist Golf Club, about 100 miles north of Miami, is expected to raise more than $1.8 million with about 70 golfers paying $30,000 each.
'Golf and golf lovers are generally what I call bright points of light. They want to help others,' Bush said.
He also joked about his golf game and said the tournament would have a 'no laughing rule ... which is in effect every time I swing.'
The better golfer of the two, Clinton gave Bush a handicap of a few strokes for the event but said he questioned whether that was fair against the athletic Bush, who went skydiving for his 80th birthday.
'He should be giving me strokes. He's the one jumping out of airplanes,' Clinton said.
For Clinton's operation, known as a decortication, doctors at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center will remove scar tissue either through a small incision or with a video-assisted thorascope inserted between his ribs.
Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, said she would be in New York for the surgery and was 'very confident about the outcome.'
'We have no reason to believe it's anything other than a routine procedure that has to be taken care of,' she said. 'Bill has decided he wants to deal with it and get it behind him, which I think is the right decision.'
Clinton, 58, has been active since his Sept. 6 heart surgery, presiding over the opening of his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, before joining Bush for the public relations campaign to help raise private funds for the victims of the Asian tsunami.
He underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery after suffering chest pains and shortness of breath. He blamed his blockage on a history of heart disease in his mother's family and his penchant for junk food.
Before going to Asia, he passed a full physical and scored in the 95th percentile for his age in a stress test, said Dr. Allan Schwartz, chief of cardiology at New York-Presbyterian.
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