Former Veep Dick Cheney Recovering from Heart Transplant

(photo: bradblog.com)From the New York Times:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant on Saturday after 20 months on a waiting list, and was recovering in a Virginia hospital, a statement from his office said.
Mr. Cheney, 71, who has suffered five heart attacks and was in end-stage heart failure, was recovering in the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.
“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,” said the statement from an aide, Kara Ahern. Mr. Cheney and his family thanked doctors and staff at that hospital and at George Washington University Hospital in Washington for “their continued outstanding care,” the statement said.
Mr. Cheney’s wait for a new heart was not unusual, though it appeared to be longer than the average wait, which has varied in recent years from six months to a year, according to several studies. In June 2010, 3,153 patients were on the waiting list for a heart transplant, and 80 were awaiting a heart-lung transplant, the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reported last year.
Patients on the list generally have to be ready to rush to the hospital when a suitable donor is found, so there is little notice before a transplant takes place. It is not unusual for recipients not to know the identity of their donor; notification is determined by the rules of organ donation networks and the wishes of the donor’s family.
At 71, Mr. Cheney is near the upper age limit for such an operation, though that limit has been steadily rising. As recently as 2006, the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation said that while patients recommended for a heart transplant should generally be 70 or under, “carefully selected patients” over 70 could be considered. In 2008, about 12 percent of heart transplant patients were 65 or older.
In 2010, the former vice president had a left ventricular assist device, a battery-powered heart pump, implanted by surgeons. They pose significant risks and are a last resort, either for permanent use or as a bridge to transplant until a donor heart can be found. It was among a series of operations over several decades on Mr. Cheney’s heart and leg veins. He suffered his first heart attack at the age of 37 in 1978 as he was campaigning for Congress; a decade later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
In appearances since he left office in 2009, Mr. Cheney has appeared gaunt and increasingly frail. Last August, he published an autobiography, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” written with his daughter Liz Cheney, in which he reported that a team of doctors assessed his heart condition before George W. Bush chose him as his vice-presidential running mate in 2000. He also described writing a letter of resignation shortly after taking office and giving it to his counsel, David S. Addington, to be delivered to President Bush if he were incapacitated.
In a government career with few parallels, Mr. Cheney, who was vice president for all eight years of Mr. Bush’s presidency, has been chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford, represented Wyoming in Congress and served as defense secretary under the first President George Bush.
He is widely considered to have been among the most powerful vice presidents in American history, working behind the scenes on policies as varied as energy and counterterrorism and advocating an aggressive assertion of presidential power.
He was a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, and his influence as vice president during Mr. Bush’s second term was considerably diminished. But he remains revered on the political right and in the Republican Party and has been one of the Obama administration’s toughest critics, speaking out regularly despite his fragile health.
There were no advance news reports of the transplant, but it did not come entirely as a surprise. On the “Today” show on NBC in January 2011, Mr. Cheney discussed his heart pump and said he might need a transplant.

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