'This Week': Dick Cheney's Heart

Former VP talks about his heart transplant and his new book, "Heart: An American Medical Odyssey."
3:00 | 10/27/13

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Transcript for 'This Week': Dick Cheney's Heart
change the batteries on that? Well, it starts to beep. It's -- when the power runs out, you get to the point where you have to change the batteries and this is what the batteries look like, and they're good for ten hours. It starts to beep when, you know, and when I do this, of course -- I think you should put it back in, yeah. That would not be a good thing. That was dick cheney two years ago with our jon karl showing off that pump that kept him alive until he got a new heart in 2012, and he's written all about this remarkable appearance in a new book called "heart." Written with his cardiologist, dr. Reiner. We're back now with the former vice president. You were having fun with jon karl there. A little bit. One of the most moving parts of the book is when you write about those days before you got the pump and your days were literally numbered, counting the days, maybe counting the hours until your heart would give out, and you write you were at peace with that, yet now, you're back to something back everyone else has, all the time. Can you describe how it felt going from having your days literally numbered to open-ended again? As my doctor said, a transplant is a spiritual experience, not just for the patient but the surgical team. I wake up every morning literally with a smile on my face, grateful for another day i thought I would never see. You don't sweat the small stuff and everything else is small stuff. It really does work? It really does work. What did this all teach you about the american health care system? Well, the system we have the best in the world by far, lot of debate about it, and so forth, but the fact is, from the time i had my first heart attack in 1978, most of the things that saved my life hadn't been invented yet. Over the past few years, we have been able to reduce deaths from heart disease. What I worry about very much the current debate over obama care, that obama care itself may damage that innovation machine that we have created out there, there is hope, the message in the book is about hope. It's not just about me, we use my case to tell the story, but there are 80 million americans out there that have some sort of heart disease and what they learn from the book is, there are treatments for a greateal of that. In my case, you can go all the way through it and you're lucky to get a transplant, all of that disease goes away and you get a fresh start. Some suggesting well, yeah, it worked for you because you were able to pay for it. And viewers wanted to know about the transplant. One viewer said, it's my understanding that heart transplants are rarely done on patients 70 years of age or older, can you explain how it came to be you're one of the lucky ones? Age isn't the only criteria. Your immune system isn't as powerful as you get older. It really depends on the overall state of your health. If you have another serious health problem, you're not going to be a candidate. But I had to meet all of the same standards that everybody else did, I made a point of making that my team, there isn't any way you can gain the system. It's virtually fool-proof. I didn't jump the line or get any special treatment. The average wait is 10 months. I waited 20 months for my heart. You dedicate your book to your donor. Do you think you'll be in contact with the donor's family? There's a procedure to go to a third party and both parties, if they want to have contact it's possible to set it up. They don't really encourage it at least early on. Early on, I was excited. I was pumped, excited I got this gift of life from the donor's life. From part of the thing to convey here in my mind is, our medical system that encourages innovation is miraculous. It's because of entrepreneurship and innovation. It's not only hope for people who have heart disease and all of the other diseases out there that we're working on in terms of cancer, type I diabetes and that innovation machine that is in fact our modern health care system is a national treasure and needs to be protected. Mr. Vice president, thank you very much. Thank you, george. We'll be right back.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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