Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who fulfilled his post under George Bush’s presidency from 2001 to 2009, recently articulated his past fears that his defibrillator implant could have been exploited by terrorists, during a Homeland style assassination plot.
During a 60 minute interview, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CBS, the businessman-cum-politician discussed efforts by medical practitioners to ensure his cardiac function could not be manipulated by underhanded parties. In doing so, the wireless capability of the defibrillator device was permanently disabled, following a replacement operation in 2007.
A History of Cardiovascular Disease
Cheney has had a fraught history of cardiovascular pathology, encountering wave after wave of myocardial infarctions, culminating in impaired contraction of his heart’s left ventricle. According to CNN, his health began to decline in 1978, when he was struck down by his first heart attack. Thereafter, he suffered subsequent heart attacks in 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2010.
Throughout the years a myriad of advanced medical interventions were employed to sustain Cheney’s floundering heart, including coronary balloon angioplasty and catheterizations, alongside a quadruple bypass operation. He was also treated for deep vein thrombosis, aneurysms, blood clots and atrial fibrillation.
Prior to his heart transplant procedure, which was performed at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, Cheney was suffering grave medical problems, which were seriously impacting his quality of life.
Recently, Cheney has been making a number of television appearances, promoting his brand new book, entitled Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, which he collaborated on with his cardiologist.
Homeland Assassination Plot Struck Cheney as “Possible”
During the CBS interview, Cheney explained how his cardiologist had recommended that his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device, which was due for replacement in 2007, be modified to disable its wireless facility. The medical device was originally inserted in 2001 to circumvent sudden cardiac death, designed to correct aberrant electrical activity of the heart.
During season two of Showtime’s renowned spy thriller Homeland, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) tampers with Vice President Walden’s heart device, delivering deadly pulses of electricity to his heart using a remote transmitter.
Back in 2012, Huffington Post interviewed Homeland Executive Producer Henry Bromell, taking the opportunity to enquire about the source of inspiration for the powerful scene. Bromell explained that his colleague, Howard Gordon, had read about how implantable defibrillators could be manipulated in a New York Times article. The newspaper reported, although purely theoretical, expert hackers could potentially gain wireless access to an individual’s internal defibrillator and dispense fatal electrical shocks.
Bromell briefly spoke about how the research study, from which the New York Times gleaned their knowledge, shaped the show’s direction:
“Some scientists had written a scholarly piece on the fact that in their lab, they had indeed hacked easily into one of these things and caused it to run amok… When you hack into [the box Walden had], you basically trick it, and the scientists very easily convinced the pacemaker that it should send a huge jolt of electricity into the heart.”
Cheney ruminated over his feelings, upon seeing the scene:
“I was aware of the danger, if you will, that existed, but I found it credible because I knew from the experience we had and the necessity for adjusting my own device, that it was an accurate portrayal of what was possible.”
Did Cheney’s Health Influence His Role in Power?
Cheney went on to describe how his health problems did not prevent him from adequately performing his duties as the president’s right-hand man. He also alleges that the stresses imposed by the demanding role did not influence his medical condition, claiming he failed to “buy the notion” that the two factors were interrelated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Cheney’s expert cardiologist, seemed to offer up a different opinion. Reiner states, on the fateful morning of 9/11, Cheney’s blood test results showed an unusually elevated potassium level, a dangerous condition called hyperkalemia.
However, Cheney is now healthier than he has been in many years, proclaiming his recovery to be a “miracle.” At the age of 72, he now believes he is in great physical shape and is far more capable, and regularly goes fishing and hunting.
Dick Cheney is also slated to make an appearance on NBC’s Today show, Hannity and Dr. Oz, this Monday night. Today, two years after receiving an anonymously donated heart, Cheney no longer needs to fear a Homeland-esque assassination plot.
By: James Fenner