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Cheney Focuses on Work After a Day of Recovering

July 02, 2001|FAYE FIORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney prepared to return to work today after spending Sunday recovering from the implantation of a sophisticated pacemaker to monitor and regulate his heart rhythms.

Cheney, 60, spent a quiet Sunday at the vice presidential residence, doing paperwork and reading, his aides said.

Doctors implanted a combination pacemaker and defibrillator in Cheney's chest Saturday during an hourlong procedure at George Washington University Medical Center. The vice president suffers from cardiac disease and has had four heart attacks since 1978, the most recent in November. He is also prone to bouts of accelerated heart rate, a potentially fatal condition.

The White House stressed the preventive nature of the implant, underscoring that the vice president was fully capable of carrying out his duties--and leaders from both parties took no exception Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said on ABC's "This Week" that he had no doubts about Cheney's ability to serve.

"None whatsoever," Daschle said. "I think the doctor laid it out very clearly. Obviously, this has been a matter that the vice president has had to contend with for many years. He's done it successfully, and I have every expectation he'll continue to do so."

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that Cheney has been "very, very vigorous in carrying out [the duties of] his office, and I expect him to continue to do so."

Cheney's cardiologist has said there was less than a 10% chance that the defibrillator would have to activate. It was implanted after doctors found Cheney suffered brief episodes of rapid heartbeats during monitoring two weeks ago and during further diagnostic tests Saturday.

The pager-sized device is equipped with a pacemaker in case the heart slows down abnormally, and a defibrillator if it races dangerously. In the latter case, the defibrillator emits an electronic current that Cheney's physician said would feel like "a pop."

But another doctor who has consulted with Cheney's cardiologist said the effect can be much more severe, like being kicked in the chest by a mule. "That is something he will feel," said Dr. Douglas Zipes, president of the American College of Cardiology in Indianapolis, who appeared on "Fox News Sunday."

"With an electric shock, it contracts all of the muscles, not just the heart but the chest muscles too," he said. "It's recognizable."

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