A 14-year-old boy afflicted with a rare disease that makes his arteries resemble those of a 70-year-old is recovering well from quadruple heart bypass surgery, doctors said.

Gilbert Bowers underwent the operation at Memorial Hospital here May 13 after suffering a massive heart attack while playing basketball. Doctors, who disclosed details of the case Friday, say that they know of no patient younger to have had that type of operation."It's OK, really," said Gilbert. "I didn't know I was the youngest. I never thought about it." Doctors say he should eventually be able to resume playing basketball, he said.

In bypass surgery, blood vessels from elsewhere in the body are grafted around the blood vessels leading to the heart to get around blockages. Doctors said the boy would have died without the operation.

"To the best of our knowledge . . . we have searched around and not found anyone of this age to have this kind of surgery," said Dr. Silvio Sperber, a cardiologist at Memorial. "This is a very rare case."

The 7 1/2-hour operation, however, was only a stopgap measure to cure a rare disease that Gilbert was born with, which robs his body of its ability to rid itself of cholesterol. Within a couple of years, Gilbert will need a liver transplant, doctors said.

The genetic disease, called hypercholesterolemia familial, is found in about one in a million people, doctors said.

The cholesterol has clogged Gilbert's arteries to the point where they could easily be mistaken for those of a 70-year-old man, doctors said.

He had been under treatment for the problem previously but doctors didn't realize the extent of it.