Dick Cheney very nearly succumbed to his longtime heart disease in 2010, but it was okay, because he was "at peace" and enjoying sweet dreams of life at an Italian villa, The New York Times reports.
That's one of several revelations that arrives in the former vice president's new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. Here's another: in 2001, a blood test yielded a "potentially lethal" potassium level, suggesting Cheney was at serious risk of yet another heart attack (he'd already had four). The timing wasn't so convenient: doctors got the results just as Cheney and Condoleezza Rice were holing up in the White House bunker on September 11. (That reading turned out to be a fluke.)
Coauthored not with a professional ghost writer but with Cheney's cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, the book offers an account of 35 years of sometimes debilitating heart problems from a politician who has never before detailed the severity of his battles. It's out Tuesday, but The Times has gotten ahold of a sneak preview. Here's what Cheney has to say about the end-stage heart failure that brought him near death in 2010, two years before he received a successful heart transplant:
“If this is dying, I remember thinking, it’s not all that bad,” Mr. Cheney writes in “Heart: An American Medical Odyssey,” to be published on Tuesday. His kidneys were starting to fail and doctors were rushing him to emergency surgery to implant a device in his chest. “I believed I was approaching the end of my days, but that didn’t frighten me,” he recalls. “I was pain free and at peace, and I had led a remarkable life.”
"Magnificent," indeed. Things were so drastic, Cheney told his daughters and wife that he wanted to be cremated. But at least his dreams were serene:
He spent nine hours on the operating table and 35 days in the hospital, much of it unconscious, dreaming about living in a villa in Italy
The book also casts light on Cheney's earlier heart attacks, including the "mild" one that hit him during the 2000 Florida recount. Of course, had all these health details been public knowledge then, they likely would have raised serious concerns about his wellness and ability to govern (not that that terrifying September 11 scenario would have been even vaguely imaginable). Eight years later, during the 2008 election, John McCain's age and questionable health did exactly that.