Heart Device Keeps Dick Cheney Alive, but Takes Away His Pulse

By Andrew Moseman | July 21, 2010 9:16 am

dick-cheneyDick Cheney may not have a pulse, but part of his ticker is spinning at 9,000 RPM.

The former Vice President provided an instant laugh line for comedians this week when it was revealed that during his latest heart surgery, doctors installed a new implant called left ventricular assist device, or LVAD.

The pump runs something like a drill bit, continuously rotating at 9,000 rotations per minute rather than squeezing and releasing, so Cheney now officially has no pulse, according to Dr. Stuart D. Russell, chief of heart failure and transplantation at Johns Hopkins’ Comprehensive Transplant Center [Baltimore Sun].

A device like Cheney’s is implanted in his chest, with the exception of the batteries, which the user must wear in a separate vest. (Though the Baltimore Sun reports that patients can wear the power source “holster style,” which may be more Cheney’s style.)

So what does this thing do? As the LVAD’s name would suggest, it’s not a replacement heart itself—the device offers the heart an assist. Specifically, if the heart is struggling to pump blood from the left ventricle to the aorta—the body’s largest artery, which disperses blood throughout the body—the LVAD can offer a mechanical bypass. Surgeons attach a pump to the left ventricle of the heart, and blood flows from there into the pump. The pump’s rotating action helps to push the blood back up into the aorta. Patients have to supplement the device by taking anticoagulant medications that prevent blood clots.

Most such pulse-less patients feel nothing unusual. But they are urged to wear bracelets or other identifications to alert emergency room doctors as to why they have no pulse [The New York Times].

Having the LVAD in place should make it possible for Cheney, whose congestive heart failure is worsening, to lead an active life. No swimming, though: The device can’t be submerged.

For Cheney, whose beleaguered heart suffered the first of five attacks at the age of 37 and endured a quadruple bypass in 1988, the question now is whether his LVAD is a stepping stone to something else. The LVAD was originally intended that way, as a stop-gap for a patient awaiting a heart transfer.

But Cheney, at 69, might not be a candidate. In that case it’s a “destination therapy,” meaning this is his treatment destination. But Russell says that he could live 4,5 or 6 years with this pump and new ones already are in development. And “6 years for a 69-year-old who has had 5 heart attacks is significant,” he said [Baltimore Sun].

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Image: White House/David Bohrer

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Technology
  • Jeff

    I thought vampires didn’t have pulses…

  • scout

    The jokes write themselves…

  • Richard

    Don’t worry, it’s just a Reptilian thing………

  • http://www.funwithln2.com Jon F

    “The LVAD is monitored by the Electronic Valve Implant Level. Doctors have assured the media that Cheney’s EVIL is quite high for a man his age.”

  • http://feralboy12.com feralboy12

    Does he have a reflection? Has anybody checked?

  • megan

    LOL, LVAD = VLAD the vampire count!

  • Roddy

    Hoping he lives long enough to be sent to The Hague for trial…

  • http://clubneko.net nick

    I like how we assume he actually had a pulse before.

    And just what we need, cyber-Cheney. He’s probably going to be either the first immortal human or the first full-conversion cyborg. But hey, Star Wars would have been boring without Vader, right?

  • Amazed

    I hope none of you have to go through this. It is an amazing technology but the real thing is much better.

    By the way “schadenfreude” is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

  • cgray

    Let’s see, it’s conservatives who give more money to charity than liberals, conservatives who give more time to charity than liberals, and conservatives who give more blood to the Red Cross and other blood banks than liberals. And who is more compassionate? Liberals! Truly legends in their own minds. Go back to your compassionate baby killing now.

  • I heart planned parenhood.

    John Stewart’s penguin voice really compliments the Death Star soundtrack.. On Fox News tonight Glen Beck reported that Cheney has a Darth Vader pez dispenser in his pocket at all times. He even has the vintage Star Wars blue flannel sheets and lunchbox!

  • cgray

    I saw Glen Becks show, so what if Cheney has a Darth Vader pez dispenser? He said it calms him to eat from Vaders neck. Now go abort your incest rape babies to save their mothers.

  • David

    So now both his empathy and pulse have flat-lined.

  • MT-LA

    cgray: of course we have to abort incest rape babies..Cheney has to have something to eat, right? or would you rather starve him?

    In all seriousness, no one likes you cgray. Now please go comment on Fox news.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    The comment from “I heart planned parenthood” and the second comment by “cgray” were written by the same person. Please, no sock puppets and no usurping of someone else’s identity. That kind of behavior will get you banned. So will saying the most provocative thing you can think of in order to piss off others — classic troll behavior.

    Eliza, DISCOVER online news editor

  • Chris the Canadian

    Wow, talk about satire imitating life, or life imitating Satire!!! I can hear it now, Cheney talking to Sarah Palin “(Mechanical breath in) Sarah, I AM your FATHER (Mechanical Breath Out)”.

    Sad truth is, Cheney received this heart machine because he could AFFORD IT. Most regular Americans probably would never have the option of one of these devices, if it wasn’t for the Health Care Reform Bill that passed earlier this year. Oh how horrible to think that an average Joe can afford to live 5-6 years longer now. Shame on the government!!! (Last couple of lines DRIPPING with sarcasm).

  • not cgray

    Sorry Eliza..

  • Lee

    Don’t think that obama is going to buy you a heart pump or anything else. You are on your own now. We’d all better get rich quick.

  • Linda

    Ditto…ditto….ditto…Lee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • surge

    Such a conservative, anti-science, christian crusader as him using an advanced scientific tool to stay alive way beyond his time? Why wouldn’t he just wait for miracles? I guess 4,5 6 years is a long enough time to start more wars.

  • unbelievable

    I hope none of you IDIOTS ever have to stand over your loved ones and be told they will be dead in a week without an LVAD! I have and I am very happy that such technology exists. My husband is 43 and has had his for 9 months. Without it, he would never have seen his fourth grandchild walk!!!Oh yeah, he used to be a security officer, a regular guy…and we couldn’t afford it…medicaid paid for it and he could live 10 years. SHAME ON YOU! Everyone needs a little compassion even when they don’t give any!

  • Mary

    There has NEVER been a Democrat fit to even tie Dick Cheney’s shoes!

  • Mary

    I have nothing else to say.

  • kathy s.

    Living with LVAD is a very hugh difficult way of life. Developed to be a step to a heart transplant, medicine is now using it to supposedly give more time to a person. This time is not all that terrific, especially if you are over 60. Mr. Cheney is in serious times. AND, this procedure cost $250,000, 6 years ago. My husband had one put in at St. Lukes, Houston, Texas. We met with LVAD patients before his operation, and their quality of life was marginal. There were no women in the ward having this device put in. Minimum stay in hospital was 90 days after LVAD was inserted. It is the size of a dinner plate. Replaces the left ventricle. If he sees home again I would be very surprised.

  • Marlena Coffman

    This man was been heartless all his life and ironically WE have to pay for a fake one. It would have been nice to have seen some gratitude and humility for this gift from the scientific community and working middle class taxpayers he has so actively worked against over his lifetime.

  • http://sandlinsays.blogspot.com S Barringer

    Marlena said: “This man was been heartless all his life and ironically WE have to pay for a fake one.”
    That sums up how my family feels about this reptilian. (Reptile=cold blooded) He has been nothing but a trouble-maker from the first day he set foot on the earth. — The good die young (a blessing, most likely) and the evil keep on forever. Planet earth doesn’t have a chance for survival.
    Actually, most people who wish him gone, are not being cruel or heartless, but recognize that he’s a threat as long as he’s alive. What kind of evil crap will he stir up next? We all wait.

  • Chris

    They should test it by waterboarding the bastard.

  • Bukko Canukko

    So if you took of the vest (or holster?) with the battery, VLAD Cheeeeeeeney would lose power and his heart would stop? Do I have that right? Wow — I hope somebody strips him naked and makes him pose before a Lynndie England 2.0, the way Cheeeeeeeney’s torture squads did with the poor sods in Abu Ghraib. It wouldn’t exactly be MURDERING him. I would never wish violence on a monster who launched an illegal war that led to the premature death of more than 1 million Iraqis. But it he undergoes a “harsh interrogation technique” and Nature takes it course, well, what was it that Ronald Dumsfeld said when the looting happened in Baghdad? “Stuff happens…”

  • barb

    THANK YOU TO CHRIS, MEGAN ,BARRINGER AND ALL OF YOU LIKE MINDED AND ENLIGHTENED THINKERS. HAVE NOT HAD THE OCCASION TO LAUGH LATELY AND HAVE NOW
    BEEN “IN STITCHES” FEELS GREAT!! THIS ARTICLE ANSWERED A QUESTION I WAS PONDERING: HOW THE HELL IS HE STILL ALIVE? …..NEVER DID ASK WHY. NEVER ASK WHY.

  • Kostya

    his heart rate- IT’S OVER 9000!!!!

  • Joro

    The guy is too old for a heart. Someone much younger is being screwed now. Not his first time. The world is not fair. At least some find it funny.

    http://cognitiveanomalies.com/heart-found-for-dick-cheney/

    Just funny.

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