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Cheney Resting Comfortably at George Washington Hospital; Complained of Chest Pains

Aired November 22, 2000 - 8:30 a.m. ET



CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: ... three heart attacks before he turned the age of 40. He did have heart bypass surgery back in 1988. And during his confirmation hearings as secretary of defense, his doctors did give him a clean bill of health, saying that he was mentally and physically fit. And they also told him that he could have unrestricted activity. So generally, his lifestyle wouldn't change much. Although he did enter a rigorous program of exercise and eating better, eating more healthily.

We would like to now get an update from CNN's Tony Clark. He is standing by in Austin, Texas with more reaction from the Bush campaign.

Hi, Tony.


Governor Bush got the call from Don Evans, the campaign chairman, shortly after 5:00 a.m. local time. And he was told about Secretary Cheney being admitted to the hospital with chest and shoulder pains. It was shortly after that that Governor Bush called the hospital and spoke directly with Secretary Cheney. Aides tell us that the governor found him in good spirits, and that the governor himself is in good spirits this morning.

We expect to hear some comments from the governor a little bit later this morning, in reaction to this latest development.

The vice presidential candidate had gone to Washington, to his home in McLean, Virginia, to spend the holidays, the Thanksgiving holidays, with his family. he had gone there over the weekend.

And as you said, Carol, the vice presidential candidate, Mr. Cheney, had a history of heart problems. He had had a series of heart attacks, three mild heart attacks, the first when he was only 37 years old. But at the point that he became the nominee, he was given a clean bill of health.

Today, when he went in for a battery of tests because of the chest and shoulder pains, they did a battery of tests on him. The EKG showed up normal. They did a cardiac enzyme test on him to determine if there had been a heart attack. Those showed normal as well.

Karen Hughes, the campaign spokeswoman, says that he is free of any discomfort at this point. And as I say, we are expecting some word a little bit later this morning directly from the Governor Bush about this latest development. But so far at this point, both Secretary Cheney and the governor said to be in good spirits -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks much, Tony Clark, reporting live from Austin.

Let's now get some reaction from the Gore camp. We understand Mindy Tucker is in Tallahassee. She has got some reaction for us this morning to the news. She is a spokesperson for the Bush camp, I understand.

Mindy Tucker, are you there?


HARRIS: What word do you have this morning.

TUCKER: Secretary Cheney was experiencing some chest and shoulder discomfort this morning. he decided to check himself into the hospital as a precaution. Fortunately, his EKG has come back with no change, meaning that there is no problem. And his initial blood test has also showed that everything was normal. So we're glad about that. And right now, he is free of discomfort and resting.

HARRIS: You will forgive me for identifying you with the Gore camp.

TUCKER: I didn't even notice, but I will let it slide.

HARRIS: I will bet you eyebrows rose on that one. Can you give us an idea of how long Secretary Cheney may be in the hospital?

TUCKER: I don't have any time frame right now. They do want him to stay in the hospital for further tests and observation.

HARRIS: Did he say anything about how bad the pains were when he first experienced them?

TUCKER: No, and I wouldn't characterize it as pain, I would just say it was discomfort.

HARRIS: Discomfort. You know, the first question many people are going to wonder about is whether or not all the happenings down in Florida, and then the ruling by the Supreme Court last night against the Bush campaign's positions on what should happen with these recounts in Florida, and that that whole situation may have caused some stress on him additionally. Any response to that, or address of that concern among people?

TUCKER: I don't know that anybody can speculate on why he was feeling discomfort or not. HARRIS: How about -- this has got to bring up some concern about his health conditions since we understand he has had a number of past heart attacks. is there any concern at all this morning that there may be a much more serious connection here?

TUCKER: I think right now the concern is just that he's OK. He's been doing very well for a long time with regard to his health, and I don't think that this is necessary -- necessarily anything that should raise any concern.

HARRIS: Is there any plan for the governor, for Governor George Bush, to go to Washington?

TUCKER: I'm not aware of any plans right now, but it is very early today. We will just have to see what his schedule entails after he has had a change to digest the day's events.

HARRIS: Do you expect to talk to the secretary again any time soon?

TUCKER: Not any time soon. But if I do have an update, I will make sure to get back to you.

HARRIS: That is the reason why we ask. We would love to check back with you to see how he is doing.

TUCKER: I am happy to do that.

HARRIS: Thanks very much, Mindy, we appreciate your time, Mindy Tucker.

LIN: Right now we want to take advantage of the expertise we have right here at our very own network. We go to Washington, CNN's Eileen O'Connor standing by. Eileen covers politics, but currently is also CNN's medical correspondent.

So Eileen, I understand you are there covering the Gore campaign. Any reaction, would you like to start with that?

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, the Gore campaign -- I talked to them early this morning -- and, as we were, they were just hearing the news. And they said, of course they are concerned. One aide said, our thoughts and prayers are obviously with them, with Secretary Cheney's family, and also with the Bush campaign. They know how difficult this must be to have Secretary Cheney hospitalized -- Carol.

LIN: Leon was just talking with Mindy Tucker with the bush campaign, and she wanted to emphasize that it wasn't pain, but discomfort. From a medical standpoint is -- would you distinguish between the two and is that important?

O'CONNOR: Well, what's more important, really, is not necessarily how he would describe this discomfort. But what us more important really are the test results. And so far, we have had a normal EKG and normal enzyme levels. And those are very important. Because if you were having a full heart attack that is when actually part of the heart muscle is damaged and dies. And what happens is, enzymes are released into the blood stream, and that causes an elevation in those blood enzyme levels, and that's what doctors first initially will look for, when someone like Secretary Cheney, with a history of heart problems, presents themselves to an emergency room with this kind of discomfort.

Now the next thing they are going to look for is angina. And that also can cause this kind of discomfort. It is a constriction of the blood vessels, and obviously, when you constrict the blood vessels, the blood flow is constricted. It is not enough blood flow, not enough oxygen getting to the heart muscle. And the muscle itself can have some pain. So they will be looking at that, particularly with his history.

Now he did have a coronary bypass surgery in 1988. That is quite a while ago. So one of the things they might want to do, as he stays in the hospital, is they will be continuing to do the blood work.

But they will also do -- I talked to a doctor this morning who said just to make sure that, you know, what kind of tests he might be having. And he said that one of the things they would probably like to see is a stress test. There are several kinds. The most advanced is stress thalium test, where they actually will have him perhaps do some kind of exercise, and then they will actually do an image of the heart, try to look at if there are any constrictions that have formed, perhaps from scarring from that coronary bypass surgery.

And then, perhaps next, they might do a cardiac catheter test, which would inject dye into the heart, and then they would look at that and see where any blockages would occur. Now, for that, he might need some mild sedation. But all of the these are tests that they may be carrying out.

LIN: Eileen, very quickly, you mentioned angina. Can angina lead to a heart attack?

O'CONNOR: Not necessarily causes a heart attack. It is just an indication of a constriction of blood vessels. But obviously, if there is a constriction of blood flow to the heart it is not a good thing for the heart muscle.

LIN: That is right, Any stress at all could trigger it. All right, thank you very much, Eileen O'Connor, for reporting in from Washington -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, let's check in now with CNN's Bob Franken, who is in Washington. We understand he is at George Washington Hospital there in Washington, where Secretary Cheney right now is resting.

Bob, what have you learned?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the hospital officials, on the record, are deferring questions to the Bush campaign. We heard what they have had to say. But doing some digging around, we were told that sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 this morning, Secretary Cheney was brought here after experiencing what is ultimately described as either chest and shoulder pains or discomfort, was brought in. We are told by the hospital only that enzyme tests were normal, blood work has shown no problem, anything like that. But they would not characterize his condition. As I said, they are deferring to the Bush campaign.

We are told that the hospital officials are trying to put together a news conference, hopefully before noon, trying to get Dick Cheney's cardiologist here at George Washington University Hospital, Dr. Gary Malikov (ph), to brief the news media on exactly what the situation is.

But by various accounts, he seems to be resting comfortably. I did spot several Secret Service agents walking around the hospital. It is one of those cases where you find out why they are called the Secret Service. They have very little to say, the agents did. But of course, they are here because they are assigned to Dick Cheney, who is potentially the vice president-elect.

No comments any further than that on what may have caused it. I will also point out that George Washington University Hospital is where President Reagan was taken when he was shot by John Hinckley back in 1981. And now, once again, it is going to be the center of intense attention as we find out about the condition of Dick Cheney -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Bob Franken. Make sure you get back to us when you find out when that press conference is going to happen this morning. We appreciate that.



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