Trying to Make Sense of Cheney’s Hunting Accident

The information released about Harry Whittington’s condition and complications is apalling on the surface. Going a little deeper between the lines brings up some questions and a few correlations that the average reader would miss. I have worked on a “step down unit” like the one Whittington was transferred to for six years. In a hospital with a state-of -the-art heart center and the cardiologists to make it probably the best place to go in Denver metro if you are having chest pain*. I have also hunted; birds and large game.

An earlier article in the Houston Chronicle giving the statistics on hunting accidents cited shotguns as the more frequent cause (65%) due to the close proximity and moving targets. There is an implication that those injuries are not that serious because the birdshot pellets are so small and scatter into a larger and larger area.

Statistically, this is true. Harry Whittington is the exception. The press release indicated that the doctors had transferred him to the step down unit after they decided not to remove the pellets lodged in his skin. He then went into atrial fibrillation (an arrhythmia caused by the upper chambers beating too fast for the ventricles to keep up) due to a pellet lodged in his heart. The official accident reports indicate the range was 30 yards. It’s unfortunately possible for even a pellet, with enough force, to penetrate the chest at an unprotected area. After that, migrating from the skin to the heart requires getting past ribs/sternum, intercostal muscles and ligaments, lung tissue and the pericardial sac. Over a long enough perios of time (decades?) it could happen. That leads me to conclude that the pellet in his heart – or a lot closer to it than the skin, was there when he arrived at the hospital (See previous post by Pamela, for confirmation that the hospital knew there was bird shot near Whittington’s heart.)

Some of us skeptics were wondering why it took so long to get the information out. And why it wasn’t more complete to begin with. Aside from the pellet in his heart, atrial fibrillation, and a minor heart attack, Mr Whittington has other potential complications. Can (would) Cheney be charged with involuntary manslaughter if Whittington dies of complications? Stay tuned, the media may actually stay on this.

The really interesting scenario here is poetic justice to me. The defenders have established that Cheney is a very safe hunter, Whittington did something a hunter should know better than to do, they were all wearing orange… And, we’ve heard Cheney was very worried about Harry’s condition during dinner while they were getting updates from the hospital. (I really appreciate that, he doesn’t come across as a guy who feels much of anything). And Harry has a birdshot pellet; fired 30 yards from him, that penetrated his protective gear and anatomy – lodged in his heart. Really bad luck dude…

The probability is that the pellet that got to his heart penetrated his body in the area under or around the arm- just beyond the range of most protective gear. Does this strike any LOUD BELLS? The armor protection the Iraq soldiers are missing is the piece that goes over the shoulders and arms to protect that part of the chest. Many combat deaths have been due to the victim getting hit in that gap. This would be someone in a war zone, where they aim at you, and use really nasty bullets, intended for people, that explode on impact.

I”ll bet neither Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell will make any profound Religious Judgements on this one.

* Our hospital average for a “Cardiac Alert”- a patient coming in with EKG changes showing a heart attack in progress- is 77 minutes from ER arrival to Cardiac Cath lab. National Goal is 90.

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8 Responses to Trying to Make Sense of Cheney’s Hunting Accident

  1. Teresa says:


    This is wonderful. To have this honest assessment from an expert. I don’t like this at all. And Cheney is a sick man taking several drugs. As a taxpayer I want to know what they are and if they are causing motor problems and/or impaired judgement. It irritates me how people are so quick to let this go.

  2. Martin M says:

    I betting those medicines were swirling in some pre hunt libations, too, which is why the VP’s people had the Sheriff’s deputy interview the next morning instead of letting him in Saturday night.

    That brandy breath is hard to cover up.

  3. Martin

    At this point I’m thinking with a “reformed” drinker (among other things) at the helm that if mandatory drug and alcohol tests are good enough for the military they are good enough for the CIC, VP and their staff.

  4. Ginny in CO says:


    Most of the drugs DC would be on include something for the Ventricular tachycardia that he also has an AICD pacer for; and congestive heart failure which, given his heart disease history, is more probable than not. The primary way for these drugs to affect mentation and motor skills is by lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Given Cheney’s schedule and ability to maintain his office and power, I doubt he has much trouble with them.
    Alcohol is contraindicated for people using them – partly because of dehydration, which can also affect mentation.
    The weird thing for me on this is that I dont particularly suspect him of drinking and covering it up. The delay in talking to the authorities certainly makes it looks suspicious. And that’s been a lot of the problem from the start. Despite Cheney’s attitude toward the press, this is not business as usual.
    No matter how likely the incident was simply a combination of two members of the party breaking the basic rules; a gun and serious injury with potentially serious complications were known factors within a few hours at the most. I would actually agree that waiting for the hospital staff to have completed initial stabilization and testing before notifying the press would probably benefit the victim and the caregivers. After that, it is another example of how Cheney regards the press, the public and his responsibility to the office and the president.
    Any public official who has made as many enemies as DC should think hard about giving them ANY reason to loosen his power. We put Capone in jail for tax evasion when he couldnt be convicted of murder. DC should have been willing to piss in the bottle in front of the sheriff. Or gone to the hospital for a voluntary blood test. (And no whining about invasion of privacy or lost liberties).

    I think we should be glad he stayed true to his character. A “few” more Americans may get their heads out of the sand. Even some die hard NRA members.

  5. Teresa says:

    You know, Ginny. I really do think some gun people are going to be disturbed about this. Maybe with Ed schultz being a hunter and ex-Republican speaking out, some of these people will question party loyalty. Hunting is a big thing in America, with a lot of respect among them and a love of nature. Strict codes of behavior for good reason. And they respect the power of a gun. They don’t like this at all.
    We can’t seem to do much about what’s going on politically in Washington, but maybe subtle changes are coming around the country that will eventually manifest. Judging from my local overnight talk radio, most people, especially in the West, are concerned primarily with their freedom and rights, and they are getting concerned. I do think this Cheney disaster helped.

  6. Teresa says:

    BTW, I was entranced by your poetic justice comment about the soldier’s armor. I love this kind of thinking. At this point, I think we might have to rely on these kinds of unexpected, other-dimensional events. I’ve always had faith and now is the time to use it.

  7. Ginny in CO says:


    Glad someone else sees that armor link as another aspect to add to what’s wrong with this picture.

    I was listenng to some of the late night talk radio too. There were more comments on Ed’s show today. There truly is a difference between hunters & fisherman like Donnie and I versus the ones just out to get a kill, a number, a picture or a stuffed trophy.

    More coming on this

  8. Teresa says:

    What I’m hoping, Ginny, is that the republican party is revealing itself enough so that Americans across the country who are not among the elite will stop identifying with it.