Shortly after he left office in 2009, Vice President Dick Cheney knew his heart was failing and death was imminent. He believed he had just days to live.
"I was at peace. I had been anticipating for a long time, sooner or later, technology would run out," Cheney told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday. "Death was imminent. But it was not frightening."
"I expressed my wishes to the family," Cheney said. "In that 17-month period after I left the White House, it was steady downhill progression and culminated in July 2010. My heart was no longer moving enough blood to service my kidneys, my liver, and other vital organs. I had, at best, days left to live."
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A left ventricular device saved the former vice president, who had suffered from heart disease for 35 years. Cheney underwent a nine-hour procedure, and, later, a heart
transplant that saved his life.
Cheney stressed that people "can live with chronic heart disease," and that he did not spend his time through the years fretting over health concerns.
"I didn't go through life wringing my hands saying, 'Gee, when am I going to have the next heart attack?' I had incidents. I dealt with them. You can live with chronic heart disease," Cheney said.
"Every time I went through one of these incidents, I dealt with it, and then I went back to work," he added.
In a new book, "Heart: An American Medical Odyssey," Cheney chronicles his years of heart problems and the innovations that have enabled people to live with heart disease.
With his health problems well known, the former secretary of defense and vice president often faced questions about his ability to perform under pressure. He recounted the events of 9/11, when those physical abilities were put to the test, as the United States was under siege.
"We were at war. And I was having to make decisions and work with the president and everybody," he said. "I was in the bunker on 9/11 when they blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — would have hit the White House or Capitol building, if it hadn't been for the people on Flight 93."
Practice exercises he had undergone trained him for handling emergency situations, Cheney said.
"That training sort of kicked in that morning. And one of the main things we had to do is make sure the line of succession was protected," Cheney said.
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