Reagan on the Mend From Hip Surgery

Former President Ronald Reagan is recovering well and was able to sit up in a chair a day after undergoing surgery on his hip Saturday, one of his doctors said.

"He remarkably was up in a chair yesterday, the first day post-op," Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, the lead surgeon during the 1.5-hour operation Saturday at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told Good Morning America today. "That's a goal you obtain about half the time. He did it on the first try."

"President Reagan remains in stable condition and has impressed doctors with his progress in the last 24 hours," Reagan spokeswoman Joanne Drake said today in her daily report from St. John's Health Center. "His appetite has increased and he has even enjoyed some ice cream, his favorite dessert."

The former president broke his right hip in a fall at his Bel-Air, Calif. home Friday afternoon.

Ehrhart said after the operation that Reagan's tissue and bone were remarkably like that of a "much younger man, which obviously helps substantially with his recovery."

However, the surgeon said, Reagan still faces a "long, uphill struggle."

The 89-year-old, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, will likely remain at the facility for seven to 10 days, as doctors monitor his recovery.

In a statement issued Sunday, President Clinton sent well-wishes to the former president and his family.

"Hillary and I are relieved that President Reagan's treatment for his injury appears to have been successful," Clinton said.

President-elect Bush called Reagan's wife, Nancy, before the surgery.

Daughter in Same Hospital

Nancy Reagan has been at her husband's side since the fall. Daughter, Patti Davis, and son, Michael Reagan, visited Saturday. Youngest son, Ron Reagan, telephoned and plans to visit his father in the hospital in the coming days, family spokeswoman Joanne Drake said.

Maureen Reagan, the 60-year-old daughter of Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, has been undergoing cancer treatment at the same hospital since Dec. 11. Her husband Dennis Revell said she was "hanging in there."

Michael Deaver, the former president's one-time deputy chief of staff, told Good Morning America today that Maureen Reagan had not yet visited her father.

"Maureen's hoping she can go up and see her father, too," Deaver said.

"Mrs. Reagan is overwhelmed and overjoyed by the outpouring of support from around the world," Drake, the family's spokeswoman said.

"The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation reports that they have received over 6,000 e-mail messages via their Web site."

Metal Plate, Screws Inserted in Hip

Under general anesthetic, the team of surgeons placed a metal plate and series of screws in the former president's right hip.

He was "very definitely" in pain before the procedure, Ehrhart said, but doctors said he was receiving medication for his discomfort.

If he progresses as his physicians hope, the former president could begin putting weight on the leg with the next few days, and perhaps begin walking again with one to two weeks.

Alzheimer's Disease May Complicate Recovery

Reagan's surgeon refused to comment directly on the former president's Alzheimer's disease, citing requests by the family.

He did acknowledge, however, that the disease could make post-operative treatment more difficult.

"I'm sure it'll complicate it more. It's a bigger challenge," Ehrhart said.

Hip Fractures Common Among Elderly

Dr. Josiah Friedlander of Glendale Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, says hip fractures are a common problem among elderly persons.

"I've had people just step off a curb and feel something go pop and can't walk anymore," Friedlander said. "Because of the fact that it's a bone that's angled right at the edge, it just happens to be a very vulnerable spot."

"If the bones are reasonably well lined up and there aren't a whole lot of little pieces floating around, and they're pretty much adjacent to each other, frequently you can just put a pin through it and hold the two pieces aligned," he said.

Reagan's Popularity Has Grown

The former Hollywood actor and California governor was elected the 40th U.S. president in 1980 and served two terms.

Reagan survived a 1981 assassination attempt that put a bullet near his heart, a 1985 colon cancer operation and 1987 prostate and skin cancer surgery. In 1994, he disclosed that he had been disgnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

In recent years, Reagan's absence from public view has made the public’s heart grow fonder for him.

According to an poll taken last year, 64 percent of Americans now approve of Reagan's performance while he was in office. That’s eight points better than Reagan’s average job approval rating while he was in office, 56 percent.

Reagan’s career average lands him at the center of the pack of postwar presidents, behind John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Bush, and tied with Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. His ratings ranged from a low of 42 percent in early 1983, several months after unemployment soared to heights unseen since 1940, to a high of 73 in 1981, just after John Hinckley Jr. shot him.

ABCNEWS Radio, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.