(Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Former Vice President Dick Cheney underwent heart transplant surgery Saturday and is recovering in the intensive care unit of a Virginia hospital.
Cheney, who has suffered five heart attacks and was in end-stage heart failure, received surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.
The office of the 71-year-old said he had been on a waiting list for more than 20 months. According to the American Heart Association, over 3,000 patients were on the waiting list for a heart transplant in June 2010.
"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," said a statement from an aide, Kara Ahern. He and his family were grateful to doctors and staff at the Virginia hospital and at George Washington University Hospital in Washington for "their continued outstanding care," the statement added.
Cheney, once a heavy smoker, has a long history of heart problems since he had his first heart attack in 1978 at age 37. Subsequent attacks in 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2010 resulted in moderate contractile dysfunction of his left ventricle. When he suffered the fifth heart attack in June 2010, he had a left ventricular assist device implanted to help his heart keep working.
In an interview with NBC News in January 2011, Cheney said he was surviving on a battery-powered heart pump, "a wondrous device," and it was "awkward" for him to walk around. "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 said. "So I'll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant. But we haven't addressed that yet."
In his autobiography, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, Cheney writes about being told he had serious heart problems just before George W. Bush chose him as his running mate in 2000. He says he wrote a letter of resignation and gave it to his counsel, David S. Addington, to be sent to President Bush if his health deteriorated.
Cheney served as President Bush's vice president from 2001 to 2009. He is a member of the United Methodist Church and was the first Methodist Vice President to serve under a Methodist President.