George W. Bush’s Close Call

His recent heart problems were far more dangerous than generally believed — potentially life-threatening, in fact.

Former President George W. Bush gives the coin toss before kickoff between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the SMU Mustangs on August 30, 2013 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
National Journal
Tom DeFrank
Oct. 11, 2013, 11:31 a.m.

George W. Bush’s re­cent heart prob­lems were far more dan­ger­ous than gen­er­ally be­lieved — po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing, in fact.

Sources fa­mil­i­ar with the former pres­id­ent’s med­ic­al situ­ation told Na­tion­al Journ­al that a ma­jor block­age in a coron­ary artery dis­covered dur­ing Bush’s an­nu­al phys­ic­al ex­am in Au­gust had al­most com­pletely shut off blood flow to one of his heart cham­bers.

“He was more than 95% oc­cluded,” an au­thor­it­at­ive source said. “With a block­age like that in a main artery you’re sup­posed to die. He was pretty lucky they caught it.”

Dr. Jonath­an Rein­er, an in­ter­ven­tion­al car­di­olo­gist at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity who has treated former Vice Pres­id­ent Dick Cheney but was not in­volved in Bush’s care, noted that a block­age of that mag­nitude wouldn’t ne­ces­sar­ily be fatal in all pa­tients but is a very ser­i­ous situ­ation re­quir­ing prompt treat­ment.

“Every case is dif­fer­ent,” Rein­ert said. “It de­pends on sev­er­al factors, in­clud­ing how quickly a block­age has de­veloped. But it’s a very im­port­ant ves­sel. If you oc­clude that par­tic­u­lar artery it can kill you.”

A prom­in­ent in­tern­ist who asked not to be iden­ti­fied ad­ded that Bush’s block­age, if un­dia­gnosed, would al­most cer­tainly have risked “a grave car­di­ac event.”

Even with a 95 per­cent block­age, Rein­er said, blood will still be flow­ing through the im­paired artery, but the heart muscle must work harder, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing vig­or­ous activ­ity. The ad­ded strain when blood flow is di­min­ished can lead to ser­i­ous car­di­ac com­plic­a­tions, in­clud­ing a heart at­tack.

The 43rd pres­id­ent has ex­er­cised reg­u­larly for years and is gen­er­ally be­lieved to be in ex­cel­lent health. Nev­er­the­less, a stress test that’s stand­ard with all phys­ic­als at the renowned Cooper Clin­ic in Dal­las turned up wor­ri­some changes to Bush’s elec­tro­car­di­o­gram read­ings. His phys­i­cians quickly ordered up a CT an­giogram that re­vealed the mag­nitude of the block­age and promp­ted them to re­com­mend in­sert­ing a stent to open the artery. That pro­ced­ure was done the next morn­ing at Texas Health Pres­by­teri­an Hos­pit­al without com­plic­a­tion. Bush spent the night at the hos­pit­al for ob­ser­va­tion and is re­por­ted to be re­cov­er­ing nor­mally.

At the time some phys­i­cians wondered wheth­er the stent was med­ic­al overkill, giv­en that Bush has no known fam­ily his­tory of heart dis­ease and is in good shape. Mul­tiple sources know­ledge­able about Bush’s con­di­tion, however, said there’s no ques­tion the treat­ment was med­ic­ally ne­ces­sary.

A spokes­man for the Cooper Clin­ic de­clined to dis­cuss any as­pects of Bush’s care, cit­ing pa­tient pri­vacy. Bush spokes­man Freddy Ford also de­clined com­ment.

By all ap­pear­ances, the ex-pres­id­ent has bounced back smartly from his health scare. He’s been cleared to travel, at­tend­ing the Pres­id­ent’s Cup golf matches in Ohio last week­end. He’s also re­turned to play­ing golf and rid­ing moun­tain bikes, but doc­tors have put lim­its on his nor­mally-man­ic speeds and the dur­a­tion of his workouts.

“He’s back on the bike — easy, not hard,” a friend said. “But he’s feel­ing ter­rif­ic and do­ing fine.”

What We're Following See More »
“CLINTON MUST BECOME THE NEXT PRESIDENT”
Bernie Sanders Seeks to Unite the Party
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Instead of his usual stump speech, Bernie Sanders tonight threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, providing a clear contrast between Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump on the many issues he used to discuss in his campaign stump speeches. Sanders spoke glowingly about the presumptive Democratic nominee, lauding her work as first lady and as a strong advocate for women and the poor. “We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor,” he said. “Hillary Clinton will make a great president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

“MUST NEVER BE PRESIDENT”
Elizabeth Warren Goes After Donald Trump
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a stark contrast from Michelle Obama's uplifting speech, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the rigged system plaguing Americans before launching into a full-throated rebuke of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump is "a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone," she claimed, before saying he "must never be president of the United States." She called him divisive and selfish, and said the American people won't accept his "hate-filled America." In addition to Trump, Warren went after the Republican Party as a whole. "To Republicans in Congress who said no, this November the American people are coming for you," she said.

FLOTUS OFFERS STRONG ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON
Michelle Obama: “I Trust” Hillary Clinton
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.

SANDERS BACKER CONFRONTS STUBBORN SANDERS SUPPORTERS
Sarah Silverman to Bernie or Bust: “You’re Being Ridiculous”
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.

‘INEXCUSABLE REMARKS’
DNC Formally Apologizes to Bernie Sanders
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."

Source:
×