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John Kerry will recover quickly, doctor predicts

Secretary of State John F. Kerry rode a bike in March after talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on a nuclear disarmament pact with Iran.Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry underwent four hours of surgery Tuesday, emerging in “good condition” and was preparing to start walking again Wednesday after doctors set his broken right leg at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Kerry was conscious throughout the operation, according to Dr. Dennis Burke, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the operation.

“The procedure was uncomplicated, the fracture was fully repaired, and we plan to get him up walking on Wednesday,” said Burke, who in 2009 replaced one of Kerry’s hips and, in 2010, the other. “I anticipate a short hospitalization, a full and complete recovery, and a return to normal function.”


“I do not anticipate that this will interfere with his duties as secretary of state,” he added in a statement.

Kerry arrived in Boston on Monday night following a cycling accident in France that has caused complications in nuclear disarmament negotiations with Iran, one of the thorniest and highest-profile deals of Kerry’s lengthy career.

The health of his right femur has become a topic of discussion among leaders in world capitals, and a line of inquiry during briefings at the White House and Foggy Bottom.

“He will approach his recuperation with uncommon zeal,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “He believes he’s got a lot on his plate, and he does.”

Kerry has recounted details of the accident in the Alps to a variety of people — and it’s a tale far less harrowing than the exotic location and his daredevil reputation would suggest.

The bike never got far beyond the parking lot.

Just before setting off for a 90-minute grueling uphill segment used in the Tour de France, the motorcycles that typically accompany him on his bike rides fired up their engines. The secretary of state glanced toward them and, as he was momentarily distracted, his front wheel hit a curb at the edge of the parking lot, causing his bike to abruptly stop.


Kerry then tumbled over, and his right thigh slammed into a different portion of the same curb. The force focused near the hip, fracturing his femur, which resulted in a long journey back to Boston to have it repaired.

Kerry’s accident cut short a European trip and added another complication to the push for a nuclear deal with Iran. Kerry has been spearheading the final negotiations on a pact that would restrict Iran’s activities in exchange for gradually lifting economic sanctions.

Before his injury, Kerry had been planning to use the next few weeks to try to secure the final deal. State Department officials have said that timeline won’t change, and insist that Kerry will remain personally involved in the negotiations.

Over the past 72 hours, State Department officials have primarily focused on getting Kerry’s broken leg fixed. But attention now will probably turn toward how and whether his injury will affect the negotiations or his ability to keep up his hectic travel schedule.

Prior discussions with other diplomats had focused on holding the final negotiations with Iran in a neutral European capital. But if Kerry’s travel is hampered, those negotiations could possibly shift to New York, Washington, or Boston. Even changing the site of negotiations, however, could involve its own layer of diplomacy.

“It’s too early to say what impact his injury will have on either the timing or location of the negotiations,” Earnest said Tuesday, when asked about moving the talks.


Kerry was originally supposed to be in Paris on Tuesday for a meeting with other foreign ministers to discuss combatting the rising threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East.

About 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Kerry called in from his hospital room and participated in a portion of the meeting by phone. During the call to Paris, according to excerpts released by the State Department, Kerry forcefully pushed back against the idea that ISIS is a sovereign state, using an odd choice of phrase. The organization, Kerry said, “is no more a state than I am a helicopter.”

“It is a bunch of thugs that has used terror, torture, butchery, and slavery to seize temporary control of a parcel of land,” he added. “No one anywhere should be deceived into calling it a state, or — far worse — traveling to the territory. . . . And we have to reinforce that message in every way we can.”

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mviser.