Did He Cut In Line?

Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorWhen the word came out that Dick Cheney had received a new heart via transplant, a lot of people wondered whether he received special treatment.

After all, he’s been a big time player in the political world for decades, and you would think has the pull to get whatever he needs, including a brand new ticker.

And if anyone needed a new one, it’s Dick Cheney. Five heart attacks dating back to age 37. A plethora of bypasses, angioplasties, and pacemakers. And, before this transplant, a heart that was pumping out blood by the ounce instead of gallons.

As it turns out, he didn’t get special treatment. He waited 20 months to get a new heart– that average wait time is 6-12 months. (BTW, each year there are about 3,000 people who sit on the heart transplant list, and 2000 actually get a new one.)

So how about his age? He’s 71 — not exactly a spring chicken. Is it worth implanting a new organ in someone who is considered “elderly” while there are many much younger people who are in need of a new pump?

In his case, he made the list because of his fits guidelines based on overall health. If you’ve got a shopping cart of other health problems, there’s no way you would be eligible. But Cheney is in otherwise excellent health and is expected to do well with a transplant.

The average survival of a heart transplant patient is about 13 years after the procedure, so that would take him into his early/mid eighties, which these days is now the new 50s.


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