tv Book Discussion on Heart CSPAN December 24, 2013 12:15pm-1:16pm EST
the original is much larger than that. it was a great undertaking. >> where do you do your work? >> i am based in baltimore now. i also am the artist in resident at university just outside. so i do my daily cartoons from my place but also on behalf of economist i do a lot of traveling and i'm on, about ready to do an asia tour. but whatever i am i will be doing my cartoons. >> self-publish, where can people find "daggers drawn"? >> you can get it for my website which is agris drawn.net. you also see it available at the economist bookstores soon. either way, i recommend come and visit and i hope you enjoy the book. >> kal kallaugher, editorial cartoonist for the economist. >> in the book, trenton, former
vice president dick cheney and his long-term cardiologist jonathan reiner talk about mr. cheney's history with heart disease and defenses in cardiology over the past several decades. mr. cheney suffered his first of five heart attacks when he was 37. he had a heart transplant in 2012. the to discuss the book for about one hour next on booktv. >> tonight's program will consist of an interview conducted by barbara cochran, president of the national press club journalism institute, and the hurley chair and public affairs journalism at the missouri school of journalism. with mr. cheney and doctor reiner followed by a brief q&a. we invite you to purchase the book if you haven't already done so, for sale. and each of the books have been, has a pre-signed late with it so you get a signed copy. they won't be able to sign tonight. as long as he asserted at the highest levels of business and
government, vice president dick cheney -- has been one of the world's most prominent -- now for the first time ever, cheney together with his longtime cardiologist jonathan reiner, shares a very personal story of his 35 year battle with heart disease, from his first heart attack in 1978, to the heart transplant he received in 2012. "heart" the book has been described as riveting, singular memoir both doctor and patient. like no u.s. politician has before him, cheney opens up about his health choice, sharing never before told stories about the challenges he faced during the perilous time in our nation's history. dr. reiner provides his perspective on cheney's case, and also gives readers a glimpse into his own education as a
doctor and history our understanding of the human heart. the book content stands as an optimistic book that will give you hope to millions of americans affected by heart disease. ladies and gentlemen, please join in welcoming mr. cheney and dr. reiner. [applause] >> welcome, gentlemen. and as joe said, you have written a fascinating book. the message you chose is a little unusual. you each right part of every chapter. mr. vice president, you describe your personal expense. and dr. reiner, you give your perspective as doctor cheney's cardiologist and also the history of change, innovation cardiac care. i thought we would use the format for this interview this evening. mr. vice president, your heart health history is amazing and
i'm sure everyone is so pleased to see you here and looking so well tonight. and after they learn everything that you've been through it will be even more amazed. you've had five heart attacks, numerous catheterizations, quadruple bypass surgery, implantation of stents, a different letter and the heart pump, implantation of stents, a different letter and the heart pump, in 20 months ago he received a heart transplant. through it all you help some of the most high-powered jobs and dealt with some of the most stressful situations and actionable. so going back to your first heart attack, which happened to you at the age of 37 during her first campaign for congress, what are the lessons you've learned in your experience that you would like to share with others? >> well, it's sort of what the book is about in a sensible tragedy is to use my case to talk about those developments, most of which had occurred when
i had that first heart attack that saved my life. so it's a hope, a message of hope and optimism of the phenomenal innovative capabilities. the treatment i got in 1970 when i had my first heart attack wasn't much different than what dwight eisenhower had in 1955 when he had a major heart attack. i guess if i were to mention lessons, a couple things come to mind. from a personal standpoint. when it would have the first heart attack in the middle of my first campaign i asked my doctor, a man named rick davis, and interns, i said does this mean i have to give up the campaign lacks he said hard work never killed anybody. that's not exactly approved conventional wisdom to say that next to john here, but he also
said that stress comes from spending your life doing something you don't want to be doing. but he said if you feel up to it and something you want to do, do it. i sort of lived by that. i think that was an apartment lesson. also very early on realized that you never hesitate, if you think you might be having a heart attack, if you don't get your fanny to the emergency room -- and, unfortunately, a lot of people put it off and say, well maybe tomorrow or maybe it's indigestion and i'll check it next week. when i had that first heart attack the only sensation i had was numbness in these two figures. the only reason i checked in the hospital that night was my first cousin had had a bad heart attack a few weeks before. but the lesson i took away from that, once i got into the hospital and sat down on the examining table, i passed out. i was having a heart attack. when in doubt check it out. if you don't you're a damned
fool. is as blunt as i can be about it. i think that saved my life. had a series of small attacks over a period of years or i never really had what i would call a major attack. the problem of course were cumulative and the damage was significant to finally the lesson that the book is about, really about the wonders of modern american medicine to in spite of all the debate we're having over obamacare and everything else, and it's not a political book, the fact of the matter is we have the best health care system in the world. it may not be perfect, people can fix it but do not underestimate the enormous talent and creativity and courage, as john says, and persistence of those people have given us the kind of system to save my life, and not only that but allow me to go forward and
have a full and complete career by anybody's standards, even though i was 35 years a heart patient. >> that leads perfect device i want to ask dr. reiner which is you write in the book that for many years the new developments in cardiac care seemed to arrive just in the nick of time to help mr. cheney. anytime a bit about what some of those advances were? >> i told the vice president at the beginning of this project that gets like you're driving down a road very early in the morning. maybe early on a sunday morning, and there's very little traffic on the road. alights ahead of you, stretch out red but just as you reach the light come each light turns green. and it struck me that was really a perfect metaphor for the vice president's medical history. you know, seemingly every time he had a medical event that might turn his light read, that
might stop his career or stop his life, medicine had an answer for it. when you look at the vice president's life, the vice president didn't just survive these events. seemingly every time he had an event, he took on the job of increasing responsibility. he had his first heart attack in 1978 and became a member of congress. he had another heart attack in 1984 and then ascended the leadership in the republican party. had another heart attack and bypass surgery in the late '80s and became secretary of defense, and, obviously, 12 years ago, 13 years ago became vice president of the united states. so there was a medical answer and the vice president used that medical advance to not just survive the event that to thrive. when we were writing the book we wanted to write about which was less sort of a medical memoir the really more of a book that offered people with heart disease hope, and imparts to understand where they came from
but also what we can do. i had a phone call last week from a patient i hadn't seen in 10 years, and this was the best -- is with the best golf of anyone i've had about the book. i had known this man for a long time. he moved out of town, and he called and said, john, i read your book. i am dick cheney. he had multiple heart attacks and he had a defibrillator, a heart failure. and he thanked us for writing this book because it helped him understand where he was and what could be done and occasional. that was really our goal for this project. >> great. we are going to go through the very dramatic stories that detail. mr. vice president, when you had, from 1988 when you have bypass surgery until 2000, you've experienced no heart related crises of any kind. and then in 2000, george w. bush
asked you to that possible vice presidential candidates and then he offered you the job. what were your concerns as related to your health, and how did you address that? >> i would make an addendum to your question. that in addition to the quadruple bypass, the other thing that was magical in terms of my case, the summer of 1988 was cholesterol lowering drugs patents. late 88 was when i went onto the between those two things, cholesterol-lowering drugs and bypass, when i was nominated to be secretary of defense i'd answer questions about my health in front of the armed service committee in front of doctor john's predecessor who originally then referred me to john, was able to ride to the armed services committee that we have dealt with my cholesterol problem and also blockage of the
arteries and so forth. there wasn't any reason i couldn't take on a significant responsibilities and so forth, and that was true for the next 12 years. when we got to 2000, the first time i was approached about being vice president i said no way. i had a great job. i had 25 years in public life. i thought about running for president myself back in the '90s and decided not to do that, that i was going to go off and enjoy business. vice president was in a job i aspire to in my -- my political career was over. >> you were dubious and mad about the job. >> being too definitive about but i didn't want to be vice president. so i said no, and then he came and asked me, help you find somebody, which i did. i figured out eventually he never accepted the first one. he knew what he wanted and he eventually got it. and i'm glad he asked and was
proud to serve, and i'm glad i did serve. it was a great experience for my perspective, opportunity to be vice president of the united states is not an easy job but health did enter into it. i insisted on having, once he said look, you are the solution to my problem, i said i'm going to -- i've edited by those. you need to vet my situation. front and center, that was my health. i said look, i have a twinge in the middle of the vice presidential debate, i'm out of there. i'm headed to the emergency room to get checked out. i made it clear that that was a potential problem. he needed to satisfy himself that there was no reason why i couldn't serve. that in turn led to consultations between john, who was in my doctor, and then
coolly who was advising president bush, then governor bush. they talk to each other, the governor talked to doctor coolly and concluded that there was no reason why i couldn't serve. i didn't make it through -- >> dr. reiner, you actually kind of figured out that he was going to become vice president, the vice president nominee for was announced. how did that happen and what were your thoughts? you have been his chief cardiologist for almost two years spent i met the vice president initially when i was a fellow. my mentor had been the vice president doctor for many years. i met the vice president when i was really still a trainee, and then went allan roth retired i took the vice president care. in late june of 2000, the vice president called our office and
wanted an appointment to be seen. but wanted a stress test. and you know, the vice president, vice presidential sweepstakes is, as i said in the book, is an obsession in this town. at the time i think the smart money was on tom ridge. and i went to talk to the vice president internist and asked him, is cheney okay? yeah, as for cnos, these great. i said he wants a stress test. really? i think is going to run for vice president. [laughter] >> political reporters need to be talking to you can. >> i don't believe in quincy kids. someone asking for a stress test was otherwise feeling well at that time in the political history of this country said, just stood out. the vice president had a stress test and return about a week
later, and just calmly said, so it looks like i'm going to be asked to run for vice president. and it's one of those moments where you have to suppress what's happening inside your head is just sort of calm and say oh, really? [laughter] your the third person today that i said that to me last night but he happened to be right. >> fast-forward to the election, the famous elections that seem to go on forever while the votes were being counted. and on november 22, you began experiencing some difficulty and following your own rule. you said i need to go check this out. that was, turned out to be your third heart attack i believe or the forth by then. and a couple of other things happened in the intervening couple of months right after the
inauguration and so on. ..you made a decision in march. tell us about that decision and what you did and why you did it. >> i was concerned. the genesis of that was -- i asked david to review all of the statutes of the constitution and any provision that i needed to know about in order to get ready to become president and do the transition. that was my main job to be ready i wanted to make certain i knew absolutely every single possibility. what when david came back with a smile the 25th amendment stillr alive but maybe had a stroke like what willson did in the second term, the vice president
under the 25th amendment convenes the cabinet by the majority of the cabinet and the vice president can set aside from the post temporarily and the vice president becomes the acting present, but there is no provision if something happens to the vice president. and we were concerned that, for example if i were to have a stroke or serious heart attack i'm still in the office but i am unable to function and that becomes almost impossibly executed amendment not really capable convening the cabinet and a decision if something should happen to the president in that state and then you get a very weak president that succeeds to the top office and there is no way to remove an incapacitated fais president and the amendment provides a way to replace what.
they say that any president or vice president constitutional officer would write to resign the post and its address to the secretary of state, the same letter nixon sent when he resigned the presidency saying i hereby resign the vice president and then gave it to david and told him to hang onto it and if it ever reached the point they were no longer to function as vice president then i mounted them to present that to the president and the president then would have the ability to submit his secretary of state and he could report somebody else. if he didn't want to do that, but he would make the choice and nobody else was. and i told the president what we had on hand they were not very knowledgeable about it. the other interesting sideline is david didn't keep it in the office he was worried something might happen and he might want people to get into the white
house for some reason some capital at home and one night his house caught fire. he got his wife and kids out and then went back in and got the family papers and a letter of recognition but i thought was something we needed to do. >> why all the sudden you found yourself working with something called the white house medical unit and i found this to be one of the more fascinating things that you really went into. first of all it was very unusual for mr. cheney as vice president to continue. we talk about that arrangement and how you worked at the white house medical unit and what they do.
>> that is one of the lessons from the book and there is a lot of value in the continuity of care regardless of how one feels about the current issues and the affordable care act. there is tremendous value in having the supposition follow you for many years and where the vice president is more than a heart disease he says only to cardiologists take care of him. really a very important longitudinal relationship. but the white house has a full-time quite large i was just over there today a group of doctors and nurses and physician's assistants whose primary mission is to take care of the president and vice president and their family, and it's grown in size and it takes
on more than just an urgent care family doctor role that we talk about in the aftermath of 9/11 very conservative about bioterrorism and had a lot of concerns for the safety of the president and vice president from not just natural hazards, but man-made with - pathogen's so there's a group of fabulous full-time military branches who are with the president and vice president 24/7 and my great friend and colleague who was the vice president's full time medical doctor for eight years. i don't know how many hundreds of thousands of miles traveled with you over the course of 80 years a tremendous personal sacrifice away from home for so much time. but there's a group of tremendously dedicated and
incredibly capable people who look after the president and vice president and they do a tremendous job and i wanted to talk in the book about them because they are the on unsung heroes. they're also was a time you mentioned concerns about terrorism. there was a time when you were replacing i call it a defibrillator. there is a much saenz your name for it. so if i say wrong name -- you worked replacing the vice presidents in defibrillator but he had taken security concern. >> one of the innovations is the development of the technology will to prevent what would otherwise be a fatal heart rhythm, these are defibrillator's week we talk about the holocaust survivor and
he went on to develop this device from a few years ago. but when we've replaced the original divide, the new divide came along with a feature that i really want which was the ability sort of an early-warning system for heart failure. and going forward and wanted the ability to understand the vice president was in jackson and he called me and said he was a little short on breath. and this device at a breathtaking capability. but the ability that was sent customizable to talk to the device and interrogate the device wirelessly and it just seemed in the threat environment of the last decade that that might not be smart. i didn't know if it was possible to hack into the device to
enough's cause to ask the company who didn't plant the device asked the company to disable that feature and got approval from the fda to do that. and then about a year ago on sunday night, mrs. cheney e-mails me and says did you see homeland tonight? the hacked into the vice president just defibrillator and killed him. [laughter] i didn't get any royalty on that episode. but it highlights the unusual environment that this patient lived in a lot of the folks really the dozens of people provide care to the vice president have to react to. he wasn't just a complicated patient, he was a complicated patient working in the most complicated environment and in the most complicated time of most of our lives.
so it was interesting. >> one more thought. because of the continuity. the decidedly was a candidate possibly for cardiac arrest the fibrillation and that is when we put in the defibrillator. as i am parking my jeep in december of 09 -- >> we left the white house. >> private citizen and the secret service is still with me. but they went into cardiac arrest and came back and had a big lot on my head in the jeep was on the rocket the end of the driveway but john's foresight in
having me do that was 16 seconds from the time my heart went into the fifth until i was back and measured the secretion and executed the program shocking my heart and i was back in just 16 seconds but the was the most crucial decision and a very important one. >> you talked about 2009 and even beginning in 2007 you were noticing a decline in the vice president's health status. you said we were beginning to see a not so subtle decline in the cardiovascular stuccos becoming clear that cheney had congestive heart failure. what words you observing and what steps did you take?
>> he's becoming a little bit more short of breath and what we were watching was the national history of over 40 years of heart disease involving the artery that led to the heart muscle and the vice president had been so well compensated for so many years and had them a symptomatic leading incredibly hectic life in a really amazingly stressful environment, but about a year from the end of the term in office i noticed that he was more short of breath and started to solve the year earlier signs of heart failure which is part of the natural history of this disease. it was subtle and the vice president could still functioning and cut and a full day of work and could still
exercise. but it was becoming clear that we were going to enter in a new phase. >> so you left the white house and 200 naim and told about the incident and then by 2010, things had deteriorated further. why don't you describe what the state was and i will ask the vice president about how you were feeling about it. >> there were a series of events in the last days of the out ministration they've really had incapacitated back injury which ultimately required back surgery in the summer of 2010 and a few months after that the president had a congestive heart failure and a month or two after that,
it was 2009, had the device went off and then there was a series of events that followed that and there is a term i describe in the book that we have ways of describing but you get a whirlpool forming of the accelerated even and the vice president was starting to have them in and built the defibrillator and which was not tolerated well with a regular heartbeat which required blood thinners. the blood thinners had life-threatening bleeding but the bubble of defenders say you could see one lead to another like a series of domino's clicking into each one and that led to the end of stage heart disease and now the late spring
and early summer of 2010 when the vice president essentially was dying of congestive heart failure. >> how words you approaching things at that point? >> it was 17 months after i left the white house until i reached the crisis and as john said, it was one thing after another. it was a complex set of developments in the spring. and when i got down to the point this would have been probably the first week of july, 2010i remember going down to the hospital the fourth of july and i had these problems at one point or another that involved
bleeding internal and so forth. we went back home and remember the fireworks going off and tried to get off river road for the parkway with rhode after the fireworks display it was impossible to the head but i believe i had reached the end of my days. i had a fantastic life. a great family and i had done everything that i could conceivably do. and i had known for many years and assumed for many years that eventually i would die of heart failure. it happened to my dad and my mother's father to the end i had reached a plant where i was 69-years-old and i was at peace. as i contemplated the end of my day it wasn't as difficult for me as it was for my family.
and so, it was a time that i had come to grips with the fact that my time was up and we had run out of technology. there were not anymore apocrine flights that i had focused on. so, that is the sheet that i was in when we went into the hospital on the sixth of july expecting to try one more thing. >> what was the next possible green light that you have? >> the natural history of heart disease is the heart function depue ury said this point to compensate and organs can no longer function. and until recently, the next thing that happened is the person would by which to trade in the spring of 2010, -- >> the screen spurring -- one
spring and we are now in july. >> the vice president's daughter called me and this is very sad she told me my dad is dying. is there more -- is it true there is nothing more that can be done and i said no there is and we could put a device and a vice president and we could even transplant and she said he's not too old for that and i said he's not too old to be the and that began this process of moving the vice president towards the mechanical assist. so now in 2013 instead of just watching the emax trouble the decline of the patient we can support the function of the heart with a really wonderful elegant technology with one moving part that spins about 10,000 revolutions per minute and can take over for
essentially a chamber of the heart that is called the left ventricular and that is what we offered the vice president to the and also the vice president appeared to be somebody who was at the end of his days, what we thought were all of these problems that had a single cost which was a bad heart and then if we could make it better, all these other problems would go away. so we set out to fix that and our colleague across the river at fairfax hospital in a wonderful display of surgical skill and dedication, perseverance and planted in the operation and the left ventricular device on the law of
night of july 6th. the vice president at night was probably hours. >> did you think about not doing it or as soon as you heard about this you were willing to do it? >> it wasn't really a close call i hadn't thought about transplant and it had just never occurred to me that it was a possibility so i never released into a lot of time focusing on that and john set up a meeting with another team and they actually brought in an honest to goodness working and they briefed me on the operation so when it was time to operate and trying and to rebuild my strength my numbers were collapsing so fast my family was
there and they basically set look we have to go now so i said let's do it. so we did. was the toughest surgery by far. 20 some units of blood. i came out and i was so weak when we went in. i was a very sick puppy to the and i had about five weeks in the ico and about 35 weeks afterwards i contracted the ammonia while i was recovering so it was a rough patch. but it worked and once i came out from under the anesthetic i had lost 40 pounds candid didn't control any bodily functions except i could leave and i had to practice that every day, but i was alive and with the prospect that if i could get a transplant.
>> okay triet let's move ahead to when i think it was march march 23rd, 2012 you both received calls. tell us your experience. >> i won't be able to forget the date because it would have been my dad's 90th birthday. and my wife and i were going to take our children the next day to colorado for a ski trip and the phone rang and had just as i was getting into bed and it was my colleague. when i looked up the phone before i pressed the button i saw the caller id and i knew what it was at that time about midnight and i just picked up the phone and without even saying hello he said the heart
of -- the head of heart failure we have the heart and it is perfect. i had known in some ways since i met vice president that one day i might be getting a phone call like that, but it was a very dramatic moment and i call the vice president. he had already gotten the news from one of the nurse practitioners over at fairfax to the call the vice president and i said this is going to be a great day. and i realized that i was trying to reassure myself. the vice president was an incredible spirits, and it was an emotional thing for me. >> can you describe the surgery and when you came out of that,
you described the heart refilling with blood and starting to beat again. when you woke up tell us what you felt then. >> well, john was at the bedside and the surgeon at fairfax and they told me that everything had gone very well, the transplant had been very smooth. once it was hooked up to the blood supply, everything was perfect to date and at that point my immediate reaction was one of joy and we were very much aware and i always emphasize and
people often ask about the context of the book and is not really interest especially early on because my sense of almost being reborn the extension of my life who knows how long in on the other hand the family had been through a terrible tragedy and lost some one and there is a sort of mismatched emotionally at a particular time it was the easiest surgery that i ever had. i had been in three times, the same score. the only thing i have to show from having 35 years of heart disease is i have a scholar -- roi scar. the defibrillators are gone to. but i have a new heart and the
arteries are absolutely clean from the standpoint of blockages and so forth they had been back in a year afterwards and did a catheter. i haven't had arteries issues since. i was much younger. as john said there was the center of my illness and once we fixed a heart and i got a new heart, everything else went away to meet all of the problems i had been living with for so long and it was nothing short of a miracle. >> and 2010, you were unable to fish or hunt. you couldn't even walk up stairs. what is your activity like today, what is life like today? >> we spent a good part of the year in miami and jacksonville and got a diesel and i have my
granddaughter's worse because she is a research. this year i shot a pheasant in montana and south dakota over the next season in louisiana and last weekend i was on the shore. i fish probably one day a week and from the standpoint of the physical limitations, i don't think there are any two were -- i work out on an exercise bike but i have a bad mean from high school football. john told me a long time ago i said look, this whole procedural operation that we are going through what has been a success when you tell me you are more worried about your knee and you are about your heart. [laughter] >> some people have suggested that mr. cheney got special
treatment because he is cvip. is that true? >> obviously not. every innovation, every drug and every device and surgery that the vice president receives is commercially available technology. there were no experimental therapies often to the vice president. but, the vice president was an unusual patient. he was vice president of the united states. and so, although we delivered i think the state of the art complex medical care through the complex patient, the most complex patient in my career actually what was different is how we had to deliver and i talked about in the book how we tailored the care of somebody that has a very singular security requirements, who
requires varied efficient care. i can't impose on the vice president, and maybe later in the week and next week. we try to create an efficient model of care and we talk about how we do that in the book with the way that we deliver the care is unusual. the care he got is standard, state of the art cardiovascular care, 2500 years in the making. but sure. when you have to find a place for the military to carry the football, that isn't unusual care. and so, at gw where almost all of the vice president's care has been the last three decades, we know how to do that and so we come figured this standard care to win on standard patient, and i at that, absolutely. >> but you do say in the book
that sometimes celebrities can get worse care. there is a famous celebrity syndrome than better care. >> we try not to do that and a very early on in fact, the early morning when the vice president was admitted with a heart attack i told him that i didn't want to bypass his care by doing what i would normally do for the average joe, he and i think for about the course of his care with me and us and my colleagues at gw we have tried very hard to do that early on when we were thinking about the defibrillator in 20011 of my colleagues said there was trouble and that is
the kind of thinking that we really want to avoid. .. that we really wanted to avoid. so vip care usually doesn't mean good care. it usually means the converse of that but we try to divide usual care in an unusual way. >> thank you. mr. vice president you wrote in the book about how important your family was to your recovery and you also wrote about how your political campaigns were always a family affair. i'm sure it's painful right now for you to be experiencing the rifts between your daughters. i wonder if tonight you have anything you want to add to the statement that you and your wife made a few weeks ago about that situation? >> no. [laughter] i knew you were going to ask. it is obviously a difficult
thing for a family to deal with but when i put out a statement a few days ago, a week or two ago and we were surprised when there was an attack launched against lives on facebook and wished it hadn't happened and do believe we lived with his situation and have dealt with it for many years. it's always been dealt with within the context of the family and that is their preference. that's the proper place to do with it. >> you can't publicly say that you are supportive -- the that's as far as i'm going to go on the subject barbour said don't waste your time. >> okay. >> you taught me a lot. john is sitting over here. [laughter]
>> one last question and we will take some questions from the audience on the affordable care act in the opening here. do you think if the affordable care acted and in place with your health care have been any different? you are covered bye bye insurance the whole time. >> insurance i had, there was a time when i was 23 when i got second hospitalized and had no health insurance. i spent our honeymoon money on medical. later on i learned i needed health insurance and i got the regular who crossed lou shield program and i've had that throughout my life. that basically finance the care and i believe when i left the white house at that point, i think that was the way it worked in terms of my concerns, there are a lot of them. i talk about for example the importance of continuity and
doctors. i had my second heart attack in 1984. i was in the congress and the semito bethesda at that time. the care was perfect. i had been in the hospitals and this was my second heart attack. one of the things that concerned me was i never knew who might doctor was. that is when i made the decision that i needed to find a first-rate cardiologist in the washington area so i embarked on a political career and to follow it over time. that is how i was put onto alan ross and that led to john. the continuity of those two doctors over time is absolutely crucial. i wouldn't be here today without it. i worry when i hear all this talk about you can keep the same doctor if you want. i'm sorry, but i think that's a very bad sign.
i worry very much about the device tax. we talk about in the book in one of the great things john does is he writes about stents. two guys had a good idea and no money. i happen to know and i didn't know he was doing it at the time a guy named -- invested $250,000 and that gave him enough to get a patent and he sold it to johnson & johnson johnson & johnson. it saved millions of lives. the initiative and incentive for them to do that and make it happen didn't come from the government. they put it together themselves and now under obamacare is we are going to tax the makings of devices. they pay taxes on every profit they make like everybody else but this is a new tax imposed on medical devices.
i think that is one of the dumbest ideas i have heard and i feel very strongly about it. literally i'm mocking proof of how great and how innovative our health care system has been. i can't imagine anything worse. i'm sure i can but i think it's an example of how ill-conceived parts of this program are. >> thank you. we will go now to the audience for questions. we have people with microphones and shelby go here? you have someone there who wants to ask a question? >> mr. vice president there are countless people waiting for hearts in the united states. had you not been the vice president do you believe he would have received a heart when he needed one? >> i went through the process that everybody else has to go through. john can speak to it with greater resort than i did. the normal waiting time was 12 months and i waited 20 months.
>> dr. reiner? >> i can answer that. there is no way to game the system. there was certainly never any intent to try to game the system and even if there was it can't be done. transplants are managed in the united states by the united network for organ sharing which has highly codified rules and regulations to allocate in the united states. so, the answer to your question is yes, we absolutely would have received a heart if he you were not the vice president. feeding -- being vice president in a state suffered no advantage and in fact he waited 20 months for a hard. but the vice president hasn't said or what we say in the book is when he finally made the decision to go for the transplant he privately said i'm
going to wait my turn for this. i said i understand that sir of course and he did. >> the 20 months was twice as long as the average weight. another question. >> thank you. mr. vice president, during your tenure in office do you feel that enough information was disseminated about your health to the public and more pertinent i think do you have any thoughts about the way such information should be handled in the future for the president and vice president? i believe, i can't think of
another instance where as much information is provided on a regular basis for each and every one of the incidents. i can go into gw for a calf and no one would know about it. tv cameras outside. it was not like it was a secret. when i had heart attacks i was always in the hometown newspaper. i got ready to have quadruple bypass and we announced it so there was anything that was kept secret in my mind and the book itself a think is the most complete disclosure of the health of any you know constitutional officer in the public. maybe someone else put up more and i don't know who it was.
roosevelt, fdr also had cancer in his latter days in office. then there's all the discussion about jack kennedy and all of his health problems. i think our track record is pretty good in that regard and i think we put out the right amount of information. in the end you can substitute medical judgment with a political judgment especially where the vice president is concerned. we provided -- he had full and complete knowledge of my situation. we have a situation where i didn't keep anything from him and i gave him all the reasons why and he went ahead and did it anyway. so i don't, i'm reluctant to say that somehow we have to have a medical board set up so you get a stamp on your forehead that you are certified healthy enough
to be vice president. the other point i guess i would make is you could have a very strong healthy 40-year-old and might have been a great half bad for redskins or whatever, a great athlete. >> it would be good if there was a good halfback. we could use him right now. >> based on my health -- they picked me for my experience. the secretary of defense is what he was looking for. from having done two vice presidential searches for george w. bush i can tell you the perfect candidate does not exist. i always end up at the least worst option in case -- except in my case obviously. >> laughed. [laughter] that's a good point in which to
close out the evening. >> on to thank everybody for coming and a special thanks to the george washington university heart and vascular institute that helps promote this event tonight and to the staff of the press club. now for a special occasion we have if i can get up here without dropping it. this is a big event of the night. [laughter] the national press club mugs. we always presented to our special guests. thank you all for coming. [applause] >> he will keep coming back until he gets the whole set of the half dozen. please join me in thanking the vice president and dr. reiner for a fabulous presentation and