Nightly News   |  October 17, 2013

Cheney on heart problems: ‘If this is dying … it’s not all that bad’

In his new book out next week, “Heart: An American Medical Odyssey,” former Vice President Dick Cheney describes the heart-related crises he endured for decades. In 2010, when it appeared his heart was giving out, he said his goodbyes to his family -- but he eventually received a heart transplant, and is now at peace after having come so close to death, so many times. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> former vice president dick cheney 's heart problems have been well chronicled, five heart attacks and a heart transplant , but he has never spoken about them in quite this way. he has detailed his history in a new book that talks about just how close he came more than once. the book isn't officially out until next week, but we were able to buy a copy at a bookstore today, and so our report tonight comes from nbc 's andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: it is a dramatic story of a man at the pinnacle of power in the white house bunker on 9/11, facing a possible life and death crisis of his own. the president and his traveling staff were being rushed to a military bunker in nebraska. but at the white house , the vice president's blood tests taken earlier that morning revealed dick cheney could be about to suffer a lethal heart attack . choppering to a secure location, camp david , the white house doctor passes cheney and his wife a note. he needs to be retested urgently. not tonight, cheney plreplies, you can have it in the morning. after he was retested, he was cleared. but that wasn't the case after five heart attacks .

>> at night all i wanted to do was get to my chair where i could put my feet up and take a nap.

>> his book "heart" out next week but obtained by " nbc nightly news." a week after he retained office, he had another crisis.

>> every time my heart beat , blood shot in a stream from my nose. when i tried to stop the bleeding with pressure, blood ran in the back of my throat. he says goodbye to his family and writes, if this is dying, i remember thinking, it isn't all that balanced. he was fitted with an emergency heart pump to keep him alive prior to an emergency transplant.

>> i wear it on a vest and this is a control valve up here and two batteries, one on each side.

>> reporter: finally in march 2012 , a heart transplant .

>> i wake up every morning with a big smile on my face thankful for a new day i never expected to see.

>> reporter: cheney , now 72, has come so close to death so many times, but writes that he was not frightened, at peace, knowing he had already led a remarkable life. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.