WASHINGTON, D.C. — (DMN) – Former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant on Saturday, his office announced. A statement from the former vice president’s office said the 71-year-old is now recovering in the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., outside Washington. The statement said Cheney had been on the transplant list for 20 months and did not know the identity of the donor. “Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” the statement read.
Cheney, who served as President George W. Bush’s vice president from 2001 to 2009, has a long history of heart problems. He suffered his first heart attack at age 37 and his fifth in 2010. In 1988, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and has had several other heart surgeries since then, including multiple angioplasties and the implantation of a pacemaker. In 2010, he had a battery-powered heart pump known as a Left Ventricular Assist Device implanted to keep his heart working – a device that is often used for short periods by patients awaiting a transplant.
In an interview early last year, Cheney called the heart pump a “wondrous device,” but said that it made it “awkward to walk around.” The device, which takes over the job of the heart’s main pumping chamber, is powered by batteries worn in a fanny pack. Cheney also said in the interview that “he would have to make have to make a decision at some point” about whether to have a heart transplant. “What’s happened over time is the technology’s gotten better and better and we’ve gotten more and more experience with people living with this technology,” he added. According to the Associated Press, more than 70 percent of heart transplant recipients live at least five years, but the rate is lower for people over 65.
The AP also reports that according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 2,300 heart transplants were performed last year, and that 332 people of them were for people over age 65. Last year, 330 people died while waiting for a transplant, and there are more than 3,100 Americans currently are on the national waiting list. Several of the Republican president candidates reacted to the news via statements on Saturday night. “Karen and I would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the Vice President for a speedy recovery,” Rick Santorum said in a written statement. “I have known the Vice President for many years and I know Vice President Cheney to be a fighter. We wish him well in his time of recuperation and we will pray for the entire Cheney family.”
“Vice President Cheney is in our thoughts and prayers tonight, as he recovers from surgery,” Newt Gingrich said, also in a written statement. “Callista and I hope that his recovery is peaceful, and we wish him and his family all of the best. He has been a colleague and friend for many years, and we are glad that the surgery went well.” “Ann and I send our thoughts and prayers to Vice President Cheney for a fast and full recovery,” Mitt Romney said on Twitter.
Cheney’s long history of heart troubles
-1978: Cheney’s first heart attack, at age 37.
-1984: Second heart attack.
-1988: After a third heart attack, Cheney has quadruple bypass surgery in August to clear clogged arteries.
-November 2000: Cheney has what doctors called a “very slight” heart attack, his fourth. He has an angioplasty to open a clogged artery. After this heart attack, Cheney begins a daily 30-minute regimen on the treadmill and eating healthier. He takes medication to lower his cholesterol. He quit smoking in 1978.
-March 2001: Just over 100 days later, Cheney feels chest pains and has another angioplasty to reopen the same artery.
-June 2001: Cheney returns to the hospital and has a special pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, inserted into his chest. During his 2004 annual checkup, doctors say the device never has activated automatically to regulate, which they say means the heart is functioning normally.
-November 2004: Cheney enters the hospital after complaining of shortness of breath. He leaves after three hours. An aide says tests find no abnormalities.
-September 2005: Cheney has surgery to repair an arterial aneurysm on the back of each knee.
-January 2006: Cheney experiences shortness of breath and goes to the hospital. The problem is attributed to fluid retention as a result of medication he was taking for a foot ailment. He is placed on a diuretic and released.
-July 2006: His annual physical shows the pacemaker is working properly and his overall heart condition. A stress test on a treadmill is scheduled for the fall.
-June 2007: His annual physical reveals no new blockages in his heart, but doctors say he needs a new battery for a special pacemaker he has in his chest.
-November 2007: Doctors administered an electrical shock to Cheney’s heart and restored it to a normal rhythm during a 2 1/2 hour hospital visit. Cheney was discovered to have an irregular heartbeat when he was seen by doctors at the White House for a lingering cough from a cold. He remained at work throughout the day before going to the hospital. The irregular heartbeat was determined to be atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.
-July 12, 2008: Doctors reported that Cheney’s heartbeat was normal for a 67-year-old man with a history of heart problems. At his annual checkup, he also had an electrocardiogram, a test that detects and records the electrical activity of the heart, and imaging of the stents placed in the arteries behind his knees in 2005. Doctors found that Cheney had not experienced any recurrence of atrial fibrillation and the special pacemaker had neither detected nor treated any arrhythmia, a problem with the heartbeat’s speed or rhythm.
-July 28, 2007: He has surgery to replace an implanted device that monitors his heartbeat. Doctors replaced the defibrillator, a sealed unit that includes a battery. They did not replace the wiring attached to the defibrillator. The wires thread through Cheney’s heart and replacing them would have required a much more extensive operation.
-February 2010, Cheney suffers his fifth heart attack.
-July 2010, Cheney underwent surgery to install a small pump to help his heart work, as he entered a new phase of what he called “increasing congestive heart failure.”
-March 2012, Cheney has a heart transplant and is recovering at a Virginia hospital. He had been waiting for a transplant for more than 20 months.
CBS News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.