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V.P. Candidate Cheney Hospitalized

Aired November 22, 2000 - 8:01 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney has been hospitalized this morning after suffering chest and shoulder pains. The latest word from the Bush campaign, spokesperson Karen Hughes, is that he is resting comfortably. And so far, all the initial blood work and his EKG show up normal, which is good news at the moment.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: His heart condition had been an item of concern to many going into this campaign and into the elections, and his history has been that he has had at least three, what he has termed as mild, heart attacks. The first one when he was age 37 back in 1978; his third one was in 1988, and at that time he had a bypass surgery because of arterial blockages. And since then, he's doing a regiment of drugs and exercise to keep under control.

LIN: That's right, and when he was named as George W. Bush's running mate, he was given a clean bill of health by his doctors. This incident, though, of chest pains comes the morning after the Florida Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the hand-counted ballots should be included in the final and official tally that the secretary of state must accept by 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. Those counties have until 5:00 p.m. Sunday to turn in those ballots. All of those ballots being counted in predominantly Democratic counties, possibly giving the advantage to Al Gore.

HARRIS: And coming in this morning, we had all of our reporters in place this morning to talk about more about that, but now the Cheney story this morning is changing that dramatically.

Let's check-in with our first recorder, Tony Clark, who's standing by in Austin this morning.

Tony, what's the latest there?

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, as you and Carol said, vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney was admitted to George Washington Hospital. He was complaining of chest and shoulder pains, and they ran a battery of tests on him, and the results, the initial results, all look promising. His EKG, we are told by Karen Hughes, the governor's campaign spokeswoman, the EKG showed no change; they ran some cardiac enzyme tests, and those came up normal. According to Karen Hughes, Cheney is currently free of discomfort, but he's remaining in the hospital for now. As you pointed out, he has had a history of heart problems, he's had heart attacks in the past, but doctors had given him a clean bill of health before this campaign got underway, and we have seen him campaign all over the country, campaigning very vigorously. And so this comes as, I think, somewhat of a obvious surprise to the campaign.

We have not heard any official statement from Governor Bush at this point, but so far, according to Karen Hughes, the campaigns spokeswoman, things are optimistic at this point, again, the tests look positive, EKG showing no change, cardiac enzymes normal and Dick Cheney right now free of any discomfort, but remaining in the hospital, just being monitored at this point -- Leon and Carol.

HARRIS: Tony, I understand that it is quite early in the story, and you may not have had a chance to get out and check on these things. But do you know at this particular point whether or not Gov. Bush is planning on either coming out and making a public statement, or if he's planning on going to Washington or whatever to see his vice presidential candidate?

CLARK: Well, as you say, it is still very early and there has been no indication one way or the other of the governor's plans at this point.

HARRIS: Got you, got you. All right, thanks, Tony.

LIN: Thanks, Tony.

Right now let's go to Washington. CNN's Eileen O'Connor standing by.

Eileen, I understand you have gotten a reaction from Al Gore?

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, from the Gore campaign. Obviously aides say that they are concerned, they are watching the news, and they said that their thoughts and prayers are of course are with Dick Cheney, and also with his family. And clearly they don't know what the information is, they know as much as we do, but they said clearly they are concerned and saddened by this news.

And as they have seen, at least they are encouraged by these preliminary results coming in, the test results -- Carol.

LIN: Yes, we are asking you to do double duty today, both on politics, but you are on the medical beat too, CNN's medical correspondent. When you hear that an EKG was taken and blood work was taken and the results have come back normal, does that indicate to you, from what you know, that he did not have a heart attack?

O'CONNOR: Well, I have actually just also spoke to a doctor this morning and just to double check some things. And yes, it does indicate, especially those enzyme levels coming back normal, it does indicate that he did not perhaps have a heart attack.

What happens is, when the heart is having a heart attack, some of the -- it's a muscle -- and some of the muscle can actually die during a heart attack. And it releases enzymes into the bloodstream. So when they do that blood work, and they are checking on those enzyme levels, they're looking for elevated enzyme levels. And if they don't see those elevated enzyme levels, that's a good sign.

But because of the pain involved, it could indicate that, as he has had a history of heart disease, that he is having some kind of an angina attack, which is also a construction of the blood vessels, and it also can be -- it is serious but it can be regulated -- Carol.

LIN: Eileen, so therefore he is still hospitalized. What are they looking for then next?

O'CONNOR: Well, they are looking to stabilize the situation, and obviously they will continue to do a battery of tests, continue to do the blood tests and the EKGs. As you know, he has had a history of heart disease, and our medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland looked at Dick Cheney's medical records this summer and has done a report on the likelihood of him having further complications.


RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coronary heart disease effects more than 12 million Americans.

DR. SUSAN K. BENNETT, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: It is basically a blockage of the very small arteries that feed the heart muscle. These arteries are just several millimeters in diameter. And when they get clogged up with cholesterol plaques, what we refer to as atherosclerosis, then flow can be compromised.

ROWLAND: When blood flow is blocked, the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen. A completely blocked artery can lead to a heart attack. To restore blood flow, doctors may do balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery. If it is determined that surgery is the best option, leg veins are typically used to reroute blood flow to the heart.

BENNETT: Bypass surgery is extremely successful. It is a very common operation for heart patients.

ROWLAND: Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and family history. After surgery, doctors recommend lifestyle changes to help prevent further heart damage. Bypasses will not last forever. It's usually 10-15 years before they deteriorate or reblock, so repeat surgery is sometimes needed. The number of bypass used is not as significant as the condition of the heart. The more severe the heart attack the greater the scarring.

Doctors say the level of scarring may be a better predictor of how a patient will do long term.

BENNETT: As far as somebody who did not have significant scarring in their heart muscle and was able to successfully undergo bypass, that person should be able to carry out the duties of vice president or, if need be, president. ROWLAND: But what about job stress?

BENNETT: It is not so much stress in people's lives, but it is how we deal with that stress.

ROWLAND: A heart attack during President Eisenhower's first term did not prevent him from completing a second term in office.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN.


O'CONNOR: Now Dick Cheney did have his bypass quite a while ago, so obviously doctors will also be looking at that and looking at the heart and possible scarring, and seeing how that is doing. But again, this is very, very preliminary, and they just will be continuing with this battery of tests, but so far they've said the low enzyme levels, or normal enzyme levels, indicate that is good news at least -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Eileen, for reporting in on both the political and the medical front.

HARRIS: All right, let's go back out to one of the first voices we have heard reporting on this story, CNN producer Mike Roselli, who's in Austin this morning -- Mike.


Just to bring you up-to-date that, as we've been reporting, the secretary was admitted overnight to GW hospital, which is just a few blocks from the White House, complaining about chest and shoulder discomfort and some initial tests this morning showed that everything seems to be normal, but he's going to remain at G.W. for a while for more evaluations just to make sure everything is on the OK.

He had returned to D.C. over the weekend last weekend to spend the holiday weekend, Thanksgiving, with his family, who lived in the Washington area.

HARRIS: All right, good deal.

LIN: CNN's Mike Roselli with the latest from the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas.



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