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Cheney Released from George Washington University Hospital

Aired November 24, 2000 - 10:45 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We could be moments away from a big moment for vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney.

Let's go now to George Washington University Hospital, Rhonda Rowland standing by there -- Rhonda.

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. As you just said, Leon, we are standing by waiting for Mr. Cheney to leave. We heard he is going to be discharged this morning. And so far, things are looking very good for him. If they are letting him go, that means there must not be any signs of continuing chest pain or discomfort or anything like that. So things are looking good, Leon.

HARRIS: Have you heard anything at all about what kind of a patient he has been since he has been in there?

ROWLAND: No, we haven't heard about that. But it seems like from his past history, he must be a fairly compliant patient. If you look at the fact that he has 12 years with no further heart attack after he had had three heart attacks in the matter of a decade, it looks like he must follow his doctor's orders and take the medications that they recommend, that he is trying to work on diet and exercise. And of course, now that he has had a fourth heart attack, those lifestyle factors are going to be very important, as well as following whatever medication regimen his doctors' prescribe.

HARRIS: I know we talked about that a few minutes ago. For those who are just joining us, why don't you run down that list that he is going to have to be carrying with him from now on.

ROWLAND: OK, well, almost every patient who has a stent, which Mr. Cheney did, they take a drug called Plavax (ph), and this is a blood thinning drug, and they take this for about after a month after their stent operation. He will probably take an aspirin a day, almost all heart patients are told to do that, as well as healthy people, you and I, to make sure that we reduce our heart disease.

Staten drugs, this is a type of cholesterol-lowering drug that is very powerful. And this came on the scene in 1994. And for patients who have had a heart attack, it can reduce their chances of another one by about 40 percent. That is quite dramatic because when you look at diet and exercise that will only reduce your cholesterol say 10 to 20 percent. So these drugs are very important. There are about four of them. We don't know which one Mr. Cheney was on, or if he is going to have that particular prescription changed. We just don't know.

Another consideration is a drug called a beta-blocker. And this is a drug that is given to slow down the heart rate.

HARRIS: Rhonda, I want to interrupt you for just a moment because we are now seeing Dick Cheney walking out. Here he comes up to the microphone.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm on my way home, after a stay here at GW.

I want to especially thank the doctors and the staff, the personnel here at the hospital. They've been fantastic. I can recommend them highly, if anybody needs the kind of work I needed. But they've done a superb job for me -- especially Jonathan Reiner, Gary Malakoff -- they've been my physicians for some period of time, but they really did a superb for me.

Now I also want to thank all of the folks who called and sent telegrams and flowers and wished me well during my stay in the hospital. I think the outpouring of support was very heartwarming, from my standpoint.

Following the doctors' instructions, I plan to take the weekend off, and then next week return to a fairly normal schedule.

And once again, I want to thank everybody for the fantastic support they've provided while I was here.

I'd be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: What other restrictions did the doctors say that you should operate under, in addition to taking the weekend off?

CHENEY: We're going to review my exercise program, diet, nutrition, and so forth. 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. But that's the bulk of it.

But in terms of work, in terms of the kinds of activities I can engage in professionally, there are no restrictions.

QUESTION: Including the vice presidency?


QUESTION: Was that specifically discussed?

CHENEY: That's correct. I discussed all of that with them before I signed on last July, and nothing has happened subsequent to that that changes their judgment with respect to my ability to be able to perform the responsibilities of that office. QUESTION: Was ever any thought given to asking -- we didn't know...

CHENEY: That's two -- third question.


QUESTION: We didn't know there were restrictions, Mr. Secretary.

CHENEY: That's all right.

QUESTION: If there's only one, can I ask you this? We've only had second- and third-hand reports on this. Can you run over for us the sequence of events that led to you being admitted?


QUESTION: Did you wake up with chest pains? And we don't know...

CHENEY: When people say "pain," I think lots of times they think, "Boy, that's really, really intense pain." That's not what it is. For someone like myself, who has a history of coronary artery disease, it's more a matter of a sensation that something's going on that might be cardiac-related.

And I woke up about 3:30 in the morning. 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 agents to drive us to the hospital, and we were here within less than hour from the onset of the first sensation.

And again I want to emphasize, it's not intense pain. It's just somebody who's had heart attacks in the past and who has a history of coronary artery disease. It's a matter of knowing there was some discomfort on the left side of the chest.

It can take different forms. The first time I had a heart attack 20-some years ago, it was in the little fingers of my left hand.

So somebody who's sensitive to it -- and I would urge, if there's a message in all of this, anybody's who's ever had any reason to believe that, that they're having a cardiac event, go check it out. It's the safe way to go.


CHENEY: No, say just that it was there, it was chest discomfort sufficient, so I thought I ought to check out. So that's why we came into the hospital. The first step always is to do an electrocardiogram. They did. It showed no change. I carry a card with me that has my old cardiograms on it, but also they've got all my records here at GW anyway.

They also then draw blood and run what's called an enzyme test to see if any enzymes related to a heart attack have been released into the bloodstream. That first set of exams also showed no change.

I talked to Governor Bush after that and told him I was in the hospital, reported on the early results of the test. So that's what he knew during the day.

Later on, the doctors came back in. The question was, what by way of follow-up tests should we do. I'd had a treadmill in July and it hadn't shown anything. Doing another treadmill was one option, but it probably wasn't going to be totally satisfactory. The one sure way to proceed to know with certainty that I had -- that we knew everything was going on there was to go do an angiogram.

So I signed up for the angiogram. We went in, did the angiogram. While they were doing the angiogram, found a blockage in the branch of the LAD -- I think that's the right word for it.

How I'm doing, doctor, OK?


So far, so good.

And decided then to go with a stent procedure to open up that artery. And then I got back to my room, I'm guessing around 1:00, something like that, in the afternoon, after lunch, before. And by then I was, you know, I'd been sedated as I went through this process. You're aware what's going on, they're able to talk to you to get you to move around on the table and so forth. But fairly groggy when you come back at that point.

But in terms of my knowing what the enzyme levels were, it wasn't until afternoon. after I came out from under the procedure.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to Governor Bush this morning? If so, I what did you discuss with him?

CHENEY: I spoke to him last night. I haven't talked to him yet this morning.

QUESTION: Did they explain -- did the doctors explain to you why this narrowing, that they corrected with the stent procedure, was not picked up by the earlier tests that you did back in July?

CHENEY: No, well, it may have just occurred. It may well be that it wasn't sufficient earlier to really interfere with the flow of blood to the heart muscle, and it's only in the last few months that there's been enough of a change in circumstance to generate the sensation that I'd felt earlier, in terms of the cardiac discomfort.

QUESTION: What did you tell Governor Bush?

CHENEY: I talked to him about my health situation, really just reported to him on that. We also -- that was just a small part of the conversation -- spent a lot of time talking about Florida, which is what we usually talk about these days.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) hear from Senator Lieberman?

CHENEY: I did. Joe called me, I guess it was Wednesday, initially, and I wasn't able to return the call, because I was busy until yesterday. I returned the call yesterday, and I think the call's been reported on. We had a very pleasant chat. Very nice of him to call and to wish me well. I wished him a happy Thanksgiving.

We agreed once the dust settles from all of this, we'd like to get together and to have a cup of coffee.

QUESTION: Do you think that the stress related to this recount played any role in this health problem?

CHENEY: I don't think so, but I, you know, that'd be a speculation on my part. I've been in much more stressful situations in my public career. I mentioned the Gulf War, for example, is sort of the ultimate stress for a public official. And I have not found this situation to be nearly as stressful as that was.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, other than modifications in your lifestyle, will there be any follow-up treatment that you will need to have, specific kinds of treatment?

CHENEY: No. Continued medication to lower cholesterol and so forth, that I've been on on a regular basis. Minor modifications in the medications that I'm taking. You take something called Plavax (ph) for about 30 days that reduces the likelihood of any problems developing around the site where the stent was inserted, things like that.

But basically, as Dr. Reiner said this morning in a statement that's been issued, I should be able to return to a full, normal, active life.

QUESTION: Did you give any thought at any time during this ordeal to asking Governor Bush to replace you on the ticket.

CHENEY: No. Not yet.


Thank you. Good to see you.

HARRIS: Dick Cheney there, addressing the press after being released from George Washington University Hospital. He definitely appeared to be in the pink. You see his wife Lynne following right behind him as he was walking out the doors there.

Actually we have learned some news this morning. He gave a great full, at length description of the incident that led him to check himself into the hospital. We also hear that he talked on the telephone only to CNN's Larry King, but Joe Lieberman, his rival for the vice presidential position.

Our Rhonda Rowland has also been listening in -- Rhonda.

ROWLAND: Well, Leon, the thing that struck me so much here, what was really quite interesting is Mr. Cheney seems to be a very well- educated cardiac patient. He is really up to date on cardiac procedures and what everything means.

What he said initially, as far as the symptoms that he felt, that is fairly typical. Not everybody does feel pain, people feel maybe a crushing sensation, a heaviness in their arms, or tingling in their fingers.

He also talked about the fact that on his blood enzyme test, there was no evidence of a heart attack until later in the day; that is also typical. It can take like eight hours for this to show up on this blood test.

He talked about being lightly sedated during this angioplasty procedure; again that is very typical.

And the medications that he described, the Plavics (ph) we talked about -- that is what all patients who have had a stent usually receive. They take that for about 30 days.

He talked again about the cholesterol-lowering drugs, which are very important.

So things sound very good for him. It sounds very standard, Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thank you very much, CNN's medical news correspondent Rhonda Rowland reporting live this morning from Washington.

As you see now, Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne driving away from George Washington University Hospital.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Look very good.

Right now, let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve, who is standing by live in Austin, Texas, covering George W. Bush there.

Jeanne, Dick Cheney said that he is under doctor's orders now to take the weekend off, and yet, the campaign faces this critical deadline to see what happens at 5:00 p.m. Sunday when that is the deadline for all of these ballots to be turned into the secretary of state's office. We might likely know who the president of the United States is Sunday afternoon. So how is George W. Bush going to be working with his running mate, when his running mate has to take the weekend off?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, I would only guess that telephone lines will still be working and there will be communications between these men. They have developed a very close personal and working relationship I'm told. Dick Cheney is much more than an ornament when it comes to this campaign. He has been very highly involved in the maneuverings in Florida, I'm told, that every morning, there's been a conference call between James Baker, who is the point man in Florida, and Governor Bush and Dick Cheney. And that Cheney has weighed in quite forcefully on some of the moves the Bush campaign has taken or not taken down in Florida.

He also, of course, has bean key to the transition planning that has been moving ahead, although he has not been formally given the title, he will be, in essence, the head of any transition, if there is one. His knowledge of Washington considered absolutely vital, as they try to figure out who to put in cabinet and sub-cabinet positions.

He has great ties with people in Congress on both sides of the aisle because he is, himself, a former member of Congress and has been in Washington for so very long.

So they, I am sure, are greatly relieved at the Bush campaign that he has been released from the hospital, and that within a short matter of days, he will be back to be playing a more significant role in the campaign -- Carol.

LIN: Jeanne, given -- given what's happening in the last 72 hours, did you ever hear from anyone, within the Bush camp of any concern or reconsideration as to how physically fit Cheney is to be vice president?

MESERVE: Carol, I'm having a little bit of trouble with my earpiece today, I am having trouble hearing you. But if I heard correctly, I think you were saying, have they ever considered what they might do if he was incapacitated for a longer period of time? Consideration never got that far.

They knew when Dick Cheney was tapped that he had this history of heart disease. He has been given a clean bill of health, as we know. They did not expect this by any matter of means, but I think the word from the doctors from the get-go has been that this is a mild heart attack, this is something that can be dealt with, with some minor modifications in diet and exercise. And with this medical procedure that he underwent.

So, no, I don't think it ever went -- ever, ever got to the point where they were considering about what they floated names or anything like that, in the eventuality that he might be removed from the ticket -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve reporting from Austin, Texas.

And in fact, Dick Cheney's doctors did give him a clean bill of health today to go ahead and be vice president of the United States should he be elected.



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