Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NYT covers the Cheney's shooting of Whittington

The 78-year-old lawyer shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident over the weekend suffered a minor heart attack early Tuesday caused by birdshot lodged in his heart, hospital officials in Texas said.
[. . .]
Dr. David Blanchard, the emergency room chief, estimated that Mr. Whittington had more than 5 but "probably less than 150 to 200" pellets lodged in his body.
Dr. Blanchard said that the hospital's cardiologists were optimistic that the metallic pellet in Mr. Whittington's heart would not travel farther and that he would be able to function normally.

[. . .]
Doctors said that the pellet, which they had known since the accident was near Mr. Whittington's heart, had evidently moved into the heart muscle, causing "some quivering" called atrial fibrillation. Mr. Whittington, who was shot by Mr. Cheney on Saturday and moved out of intensive care on Monday, was immediately put back into intensive care.

The above is from Elisabeth Bumiller and Anne E. Kornblut's "Fellow Hunter Shot by Cheney Suffers Setback" in this morning's New York Times. Brady notes the AOL poll (nonscientific, but with more participants than any New York Times/CBS poll which averages less than a thousand per poll):

Do you think Cheney should appear in public to make a statement on the hunting accident?
Not sure
What do you think about the delay in going public with the accident?
It was wrong
It doesn't bother me
No opinion
Total Votes: 202,344

From the Associated Press' "Man Shot by Cheney Back in Intensive Care:"

The shot was either touching or embedded in the heart muscle near the top chambers, called the atria, officials said. Two things resulted:
· It caused inflammation that pushed on the heart in a way to temporarily block blood flow, what the doctors called a "silent heart attack." This is not a traditional heart attack where an artery is blocked. They said Whittington's arteries, in fact, were healthy.
· It irritated the atria, caused an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, which is not immediately life-threatening. But it must be treated because it can spur blood clots to form. Most cases can be corrected with medication.

In the Times, David E. Sanger tells you that Tuesday morning, at 7:45 am, Cheney learned of Whittington's complications; however, no effort was made to pass that news on, at least not to Scott McClellan who spent Tuesday morning's press conference making jokes about the shooting. From "Handling of Accident Creates Tension Between White House Staffs:"

No one in Mr. Cheney's office passed the word to Mr. McClellan, senior officials at the White House said, adding that the press secretary would never have joked about the shooting accident if he had known about the turn of events involving Mr. Whittington.
[. . .]
Marlin Fitzwater, who was press secretary to the first President Bush (when Mr. Cheney served as defense secretary), said he was "appalled" at how the vice president handled the news of a serious accident.
"The responsibility for handling this, of course, was Cheney's," Mr. Fitzwater was quoted as saying in the online edition of Editor and Publisher. "What he should have done was call his press secretary and tell her what happened, and she then would have gotten a hold of the doctor and asked him what happened."

Lastly, Lawrence K. Altman's "Account of Doctors Raises Questions on Heart Injury" addresses this issue of the medical condition and what most likely occurred in the shooting:

Dr. O. Wayne Isom, the chairman of heart and chest surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, said it was unlikely that a pellet would migrate to the heart through the bloodstream, as some have assumed from the account of the Texas doctors.
The reason, Dr. Isom said, is that the pellet would have to enter a vein, travel to and through the lung vessels that go to the heart, and then lodge in heart tissue, not in one of its chambers. The pellets were approximately five millimeters, about the size of a BB, and larger than most blood vessels, said Dr. David Blanchard, director of emergency services at the hospital.
A more likely explanation, Dr. Isom said, is that the pellet lodged in or touched the heart when Mr. Whittington was shot.

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