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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

Cheney Leaves Hospital Ready to Work

November 25, 2000|NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney, pronouncing himself fit and ready to return to work next week, left the hospital Friday after treatment for what doctors called "a very trivial" heart attack.

"Following the doctor's instructions, I plan to take the weekend off and then next week return to a fairly normal schedule," Cheney told reporters outside George Washington University Hospital, where he was taken early Wednesday after experiencing chest pains.

"We feel that this has been a trivial cardiac event, and there is no indication of significant damage to his heart muscle," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, cardiologist and director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at the hospital.

Reiner said Cheney should be able to resume a normal and active life, including filling the country's second-highest office if he and Texas Gov. George W. Bush ultimately prevail in the drawn-out Florida ballot count.

Cheney said he discussed his health with Bush by telephone Thursday, although he said the conversation focused far more on politics than his heart condition. Asked whether he had at any time asked Bush to replace him on the GOP ticket, the former Defense secretary said, "No. Not yet."

He chuckled, apparently to signal that the suggestion that he might ever ask to be taken off the ticket was facetious.

Doctors have prescribed Plavix, a blood thinner, which they told Cheney to take daily for the next 30 days. Beyond that, Cheney said, "We're going to review my exercise program, diet, nutrition and so forth. But in terms of work, in terms of the kinds of activities I can engage in professionally, there are no restrictions.

"It's a reminder of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and doing all of those things that a prudent man would do, given the fact that I have a long history of coronary artery disease." Cheney suffered three previous heart attacks and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in the late 1980s.

As a seasoned veteran of cardiac events, Cheney described his illness with clinical detail.

"I woke up about 3:30 in the morning," he said. "I had a sensation that there was perhaps something going on there. Sometimes it's confused with indigestion, sometimes with other types of discomfort. It lasted long enough, it was steady enough, it didn't change when I breathed deeply or moved around, so I became increasingly convinced that it might be cardiac-related.

"I got my wife up, got the [Secret Service] agents to drive us to the hospital, and we were here within less than an hour from the onset of the first sensation. . . . I want to emphasize, it's not intense pain."

He said his physicians conducted a battery of tests before confirming the diagnosis of a heart attack. He emphasized that the tests were not yet complete when Bush told reporters Wednesday afternoon: "Dick Cheney is healthy. He did not have a heart attack."

Doctors determined that one of Cheney's cardiac arteries was more than 90% blocked. They inserted a tiny medical device known as a stent to force open the blood vessel. The procedure does not require general anesthetic and it produces an immediate increase in the blood flow to the heart. In recent years, it has become the treatment of choice for clogged arteries.

Cheney dismissed suggestions that the stress of one of the nation's closest election contests had contributed to the attack.

"I've been in much more stressful situations in my public career," he said, citing the Persian Gulf War, when he was Defense secretary under President Bush. "I have not found this situation to be nearly as stressful as that was."

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