Vice President Cheney has heart transplant

March 24, 2012

Former vice president Dick Cheney, who has suffered five heart attacks since his late 30s, underwent a heart transplant Saturday after more than 20 months on a transplant list, according to his office.

“Although the former Vice President and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” Cheney aide Kara Ahern said in a statement issued Saturday night. Ahern said Cheney “is thankful to the teams of doctors and other medical professionals at Inova Fairfax and George Washington University Hospital for their continued outstanding care.”

Cheney, 71, was recovering Saturday in the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in the Falls Church area, Ahern said.

Cheney, who served as vice president under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, suffered his first heart attack when he was 37. In 1988, Cheney underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. He also had two artery-clearing angioplasties and had a heart-monitoring device implanted. The device was removed in 2007.

In 2005, Cheney had six hours of surgery on his legs to repair a type of aneurysm, and in March 2007, doctors discovered deep venous thrombosis, or blood clot, in his left lower leg. An ultrasound a month later showed the clot was getting smaller.

In July 2010, Cheney announced that a small left ventricular assist device (LVAD) had been implanted to help treat congestive heart failure. The device, which included an external system controller, required two rechargeable batteries to help pump blood throughout the body. A few months later Cheney appeared noticeably thinner at the groundbreaking for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Texas.

“The [heart pump] technology was originally developed to provide a transition,” Cheney told NBC News in an interview in August, “to take somebody who’s reached the point where they needed a transplant, but a transplant wouldn’t immediately be available, so they put this in as a temporary measure.”

Cheney said in the interview that he hadn’t decided whether to seek a heart transplant.

In memoirs published last summer, Cheney revealed that during his vice presidency, he had kept a secret resignation letter locked in a safe at all times that only a few aides knew about.

“I did it because I was concerned . . . for a couple of reasons,’’ Cheney told NBC. “One was my own health situation, the possibility that I might have a heart attack or a stroke that would be incapacitating. And there is no mechanism for getting rid of a vice president who can’t function.’’

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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