Dick Cheney’s Heart Transplant Real Story: Who Was His Heart Donor?

Dick Cheney

Getty Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney’s life story is portrayed in the new movie Vice, including all the ups and downs he’s had politically, personally, and with his health. Did he really have so many heart attacks in real life, like the movie portrays? The answer is yes. That part of the movie was portrayed accurately, at least in part. He had five heart attacks and a heart transplant, but the identity of his donor is not known.

Dick Cheney Had Five Heart Attacks & a Family History of Heart Disease

Cheney had a heart transplant in 2012, The Week reported, when he was 71. He had a long history of heart trouble prior to the transplant and had five total heart attacks before he had his heart transplant.

His first heart attack was when he was 37 in 1978, The New York Times reported. During his first campaign for Congress, he felt a tingling in the fingers of his left hand around 2 a.m. one early morning in Wyoming. He said in his memoir that because his family had a history of heart disease on both sides, and a cousin had just had a heart attack, he went to the emergency room. Once there, he collapsed and had to be resuscitated.

At the time, he had smoked for almost 20 years and was told to stop. He took his advice and won the election to Congress. In 1984, he had a second heart attack in the Capitol Building. He felt like something wasn’t right and was taken to Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

In 1988, he had his third heart attack and had quadruple bypass surgery. This led him to decide not to run for President in 1996 like he had hoped. Then during the Florida recount after the election, he had a fourth heart attack. A stent was inserted into his artery and he was put on ACE inhibitors, The New York Times reported. He kept receiving heart treatment through the years, including a pacemaker and defibrillator.

He Had a Heart Pump Installed After His Fifth Heart Attack, Before He Had the Transplant in 2012

In 2010, while backing out of his garage, he had his fifth heart attack. After that, he had a battery-powered heart pump installed to help him live until his transplant.

People who receive transplants at his age have a 70 percent chance of living five years or more, The Week shared. At the time, experts shared that he might have gotten preferential treatment — not because of his political background, but because of his high-quality health insurance and ability to pay for the transplant. But he didn’t cut in line, as some were concerned. He had to wait 20 months to find a donor, which was actually longer than most patients have to wait.

His Heart Donor’s Identity Isn’t Known

Despite hints, rumors, and theories otherwise, Dick Cheney and his family do not know the identity of his heart donor. Yahoo News reported in 2013 that Cheney and his family never knew the identity of his donor or the circumstances of the person’s death. Cheney said, “I’d been given the gift of additional lives, additional years of life. For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member… I always thank the donor, generically thank donors, for the gift that I’ve been given, but I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”
There are some hints about his heart donor, however. Cheney received his heart over Spring Break. Dr. Chauncey Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic, said that heart donors can be young or older (especially if the patient is older.) But holidays and holiday weekends, like Spring Break, increase the chances of getting a heart donor because young people have so many accidents during those times. Because of the timing of his transplant, it’s possible his donor was younger.

The Daily Beast had an interesting note in 2012. They said that when Cheney got his transplant at the Inova Fairfax Hospital on March 26, 2012, 31 other people were waiting on heart transplants, and 15 were between the ages of 50 to 64, and three were older than 65.

In an interview with Stanford, Cheney said, “A day doesn’t go by that you don’t think about the fact that you’ve been a beneficiary of a miracle that’s a result, I always remember, of a donor. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, grateful for another day that I never expected to see.”

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