- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

Republican vice-presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney suffered a "very slight heart attack" yesterday and underwent angioplasty at George Washington University Medical Center to open a clogged coronary artery, doctors said.
News of the heart attack Mr. Cheney's fourth in 22 years came at a second news conference at the hospital late yesterday. At earlier news conferences, both physicians and Mr. Cheney's running mate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, insisted he had not had a heart attack.
The heart attack was not life-threatening.
"There was a very slight heart attack," Dr. Alan Wasserman, a professor of medicine and cardiology at the hospital, told reporters at the second hospital news conference.
But he added that the positive prognosis he had given Mr. Cheney earlier still stood.
"His prognosis is excellent at this point in time. He should get back to normal functioning in a few weeks at most… . He should have no limitations at all," Dr. Wasserman said at the first news conference.
As if to reassure the nation, Mr. Cheney, 59, called in to CNN's "Larry King Live" last night.
"I feel good," he said, adding that he expected to be out of the hospital "in a day or two."
Mr. Cheney even made light of the nation's electoral morass, saying that doctors "found no pregnant chads" in the artery.
The Republican vice-presidential nominee, who underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 1988 after three heart attacks between 1978 and 1984 arrived at GW hospital around 4:30 a.m. yesterday, complaining of chest pain.
He was in the company of Secret Service agents and his wife, Lynne, according to an aide to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Mrs. Cheney, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, remained with her husband at the hospital all day.
"It would be exceedingly unlikely for him to undergo a repeat bypass operation," Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Mr. Cheney's personal physician, told reporters at the second hospital news conference.
Dr. Wasserman said early morning testing of Mr. Cheney uncovered an artery that had narrowed since Mr. Cheney's last heart checkup in 1996.
So doctors decided to perform angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure, to open the artery, which was 90 percent blocked.
Surgeons inserted a stent a scaffoldlike device through a blood vessel to prop open the clogged artery, which had caused Mr. Cheney's chest pain. The patient did not have to be anesthetized for the two-hour procedure, which should prevent further symptoms, Dr. Wasserman said.
"There was no evidence of new heart muscle damage," the cardiologist noted.
Dr. Wasserman said yesterday that before stents became commonplace in such procedures, about a half of all arteries opened through angioplasty would reclose in a matter of months. Using the stent, he said, reclosure occurs in only 20 percent of cases.
The vice-presidential candidate and former defense secretary arrived at the hospital just hours after the Florida Supreme Court issued a major setback to him and Mr. Bush in their bid to take the White House.
The Democrat-dominated high court overruled Mr. Bush's lawyers and let election officials continue hand counts in predominantly Democratic counties.
On Mr. King's show last night, Mr. Cheney said he did not think the electoral fight contributed to his medical condition.
"I have not found these last two weeks that stressful," the former defense secretary said. "My time in the Pentagon and in the Persian Gulf war was much more stressful."
Mr. Bush, consistent with the medical knowledge at the time, denied his running mate had had a heart attack in a nationally televised midday news conference in Austin.
"Dick Cheney is healthy. He did not have a heart attack," Mr. Bush said after speaking with Mr. Cheney by phone.
"I was so pleased to hear his voice this morning. He sounded very strong and vibrant," the Texas governor said, adding:
"He did the right thing. He had some warning signs, and he went into the hospital to get things checked out."
Mr. Bush twice mentioned that his running mate had both an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a blood test to measure cardiac enzymes, and that the results were normal.
"If there had been a heart attack, the enzymes would have been elevated," he said.
But a second blood test showed elevated cardiac enzymes that indicated a small heart attack had occurred, Dr. Wasserman told reporters late in the day.
Mr. Bush denied that the medical events yesterday would preclude Mr. Cheney from serving as vice president. "He'll make a great vice president," he said.
Questions were raised about Mr. Cheney's health in late July, when it was learned Mr. Bush was seriously considering him as his running mate.
He had his first heart attack in 1978, at age 37. At that point, he quit his three-pack-a-day smoking habit. Mr. Cheney had a second attack in 1984 and a third in 1988. All were described as mild. In August 1988, Mr. Cheney underwent the bypass surgery because of arterial blockages.
At least three heart doctors, including heart transplant pioneer Dr. Dennis Cooley of Houston's Texas Heart Institute issued reports that gave Mr. Cheney a clean bill of health.
Despite Mr. Cheney's prior hospitalizations for heart disease, yesterday's developments came as a shock, given his good health throughout the campaign.
Interviewed on CNN's "Larry King Live" one week before the election, Mr. Cheney described his health as "great."
"I've felt very well throughout the whole campaign. It's really been a stimulating experience. It's probably taken five years off my age," Mr. Cheney said at the time.

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