Cheney’s Silent Heart

Cheney's Heartbeat

I first became aware of Dick Cheney when he was a Representative from Wyoming, then took more notice of him during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when he was Secretary of Defense. Since I’m interested in personalities, I noticed his sarcasm, sourness and secretiveness. As vice-president candidate and vice president, many of us wondered what his role was. Since I’m a cartoonist, I practiced drawing likenesses of him and made him the subject of some political cartoons. He was fun to draw.

Most Enneagram enthusiasts think Cheney is an Asserter type. He doesn’t waste time being polite or trying to be likable and he likes to throw his weight around. What do his sneers mean: “I’m a mean guy to mess with”? “I’m always in a bad mood”? “I don’t care what you think”? “I have permanent indigestion”?

The big news to me now, though, is about his heart. It has deteriorated badly and he’d probably die soon without the new “ventricular assist device” that just got implanted in his chest by way of open-heart surgery. I was surprised to learn that he is now pulse-less! Is that going too far against the natural order of things? While they were being developed some weren’t sure these devices would work—they wondered if heartbeats might be necessary to keep up blood pressure and to make circulation work.

My beloved uncle, also named Richard, had an early artificial valve in his heart. The trouble with it was that it pounded his blood too hard and crushed too many cells. Later, they used pigs’ valves because they were gentler and didn’t do that. Later, my father-in-law had a pig’s valve replace his valve, too. Witnessing those complicated experiences started my interest in hearts and what can go wrong with them.

Cheney’s had a hard time health-wise. He’s had five heart attacks, surgery to repair aneurysms, and a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted. It’s possible the next step could be a heart transplant, but he’d have to do it before he reaches 72. He’s 69 now.

Based on New York Times’ Doctor’s World by Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., Science Times Tuesday July 20, 2010