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Cheney out of hospital 10 days after surgery

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was released Tuesday from Inova Fairfax Hospital, 10 days after getting a new heart from an unknown donor and making a "remarkable" recovery his doctor said was much faster "than anyone could have hoped for."

Cheney, 71, had a transplant operation March 24 after a 20-month waiting period during which he was kept alive with an implanted pump that helped his heart keep beating.

"His recovery was remarkable and completely uneventful," said Jonathan Reiner, his cardiologist at George Washington University Hospital.

"He has been walking, he has climbed stairs and he feels terrific," he said. "I think his recovery after the surgery far exceeded the most optimistic projections It is far better than anyone could have hoped for."

Cheney and his family thanked his doctors at Inova and GWU hospitals, the nursing staff at Inova heart center's intensive-care unit, and the donor and donor's family "for this remarkable gift," an aide said.

Reiner gave special acknowledgment to "world-class" care from Cheney's surgeons, Alan Speir and Anthony Rongione, and Shashank Desai, medical director of Inova's heart transplant program.

Cheney's odds of survival are good. About 70 percent of people who have the kind of mechanical device Cheney had -- a continuous-flow "left-ventricular assist device" -- survive at least six years after they get a new heart, according to data compiled by the Texas-based International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation.

Even 10 years with a good quality of life "would not be an unreasonable expectation," Reiner said.

Cheney will be monitored for infection and bleeding, and will be assessed regularly, through heart muscle biopsies, to make sure his body is not rejecting the donor heart, Reiner said. He will undergo a gradual progression in physical activity, similar to patients recovering from other kinds of heart surgery.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 332 people over age 65 received a new heart last year. The majority of transplants occur in 50- to 64-year-olds.

Reiner said Cheney did not get special treatment. "It didn't happen. It couldn't happen. And there is no way to make it happen," he said. "These lists are managed by autonomous committees and regional transplant organizations."