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Winkler may avoid surgery

School Superintendent Harold Winkler may not need heart bypass surgery after all. Other medical alternatives could cure the narrowing of his arteries.

"He is so unusually fit . . . because of the constant working out, that we were able to offer him other options, and he is weighing those options," hospital spokesman Vince Vanni said.

Winkler was scheduled to meetwith his doctors Friday afternoon to discuss whether he should have the bypass surgery or go with another option, such as medication or balloon angioplasty, a procedure in which tiny balloons are tied to the end of a catheter and inserted into the vessels to open them.

The results of the meeting were unknown.

The additional options were offered to Winkler because he recently passed a stress test , and cardiologists in Atlanta looked over his previous test results and determined his condition may not warrant surgery.

After suffering chest pains last week, Winkler was admitted to HCA/Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill, and tests showed the 49-year-old's arteries were narrowing. Tuesday, district officials held a news conference to announce that Winkler would undergo bypass surgery to correct the problem and that his recovery could keep him away from work for six weeks.

Winkler had been scheduled to be transferred to the Heart Institute at HCA Bayonet Point/Hudson Medical Center and have the surgery there. For now, that trip is postponed, Vanni said.

While Winkler is away, assistant superintendents Wendy Tellone and Tom Maher are in charge.

Tellone said Friday afternoon that depending on what type of treatment Winkler chooses, he may be back to work sooner than expected.

Winkler's family is requesting that anyone who wants to find out more about his condition call the district office. The superintendent is not accepting phone calls or visitors.