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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Just a Little Pepper in the Heart 

Because we cannot possibly tack another update onto the item below, here's the latest, just in time for Valentine's Day:
The 78-year-old lawyer who was accidentally shot by Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday suffered a mild heart attack today after bird shot migrated to his heart, doctors in South Texas said, and he underwent a successful catheterization to determine the extent of the damage.

Doctors said Mr. Whittington had been moved back into the intensive care unit after undergoing the procedure at about 10 a.m. Eastern time, which showed that one BB-size pellet entered his heart. Peter Banko, the administrator of Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi, Tex., said Mr. Whittington suffered a minor and "asymptomatic heart attack" that was noted only after monitors picked up an irregular heart beat early this morning.

"Some of the bird shot appears to have moved and lodged into part of his heart in what we would say is a minor heart attack," Dr. Banko told reporters this afternoon at a news briefing outside the hospital.
One detail that made us just a wee bit nervous:
Mr. Whittington's doctors, in consultation with White House doctors, determined that he should undergo the catheterization, which allowed doctors to send a dye into his arteries or veins all the way into his heart and helped detect the presence of the pellet, said Dr David Blanchard, the hospital's emergency room chief.
UPDATE: Holy hearts and birdshot! We seem to be pinching half our best stuff from the comments section. Our distinguished colleague grannyinsanity experienced the same small frisson of dread when she read about the WH doctors -- only sooner than we did.

UPDATE II: Our celebrated colleague Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has new dirt galore, including the story (from 2003) of a ranch employee who shot a Mexican illegal after mistaking him for a feral pig:
Mendoza was indicted for manslaughter but the district attorney eventually dropped the charges in favor of a civil suit. The court found the ranch owner was liable to the tune of $20 million in the case. No wonder Katharine Armstrong was so anxious to have the Texas Parks and Wildlive Division (of which she was the former Chairman) come out and give Dick a pass on the whole thing, saying no alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident -- although there is no indication that they interviewed and/or tested Cheney or anyone else involved in the matter in a timely fashion.
Elsewhere in the same post we learn that Katharine Armstrong appears to be backpedaling on the "no alcohol" portion of her eyewitness account:
"There may be a beer or two in there," she said, 'but remember not everyone in the party was shooting.'"
The above quote has evaporated from the MSNBC site on which it originally appeared, but still appears in the Google abstract of the article.

UPDATE III: Letterman, Leno and Stewart weigh in.

UPDATE IV: From Paul Burka's Slate article "Full of Holes":
At what range was Harry Whittington hit? The official story is that the blast from the vice president's shotgun hit Whittington at a distance of 30 yards. Hunters at the Vaughn Building [where Whittington's offices are located -- S.] are skeptical. The hunt took place on a cold, windy afternoon. Whittington and his fellow hunters were probably wearing warm clothing—say, a jacket and a flannel shirt. Cheney was using a 28-gauge shotgun, a smaller-diameter firearm with pellets smaller than BBs. Whittington's friends question whether the pellets could have penetrated his layers of clothing and skin at that range. Yet two pellets lodged against his larynx, another was in his liver, and another migrated into the heart muscle, causing the heart attack. The pattern of wounds was between the lower chest and the forehead, a pretty tight zone for shot of 30 yards. If the range was considerably less than 30 yards, then it is likely that Whittington's injuries were worse than the initial statement by Katharine Armstrong indicated. (The blast "knocked him silly," but "he was fine.")
UPDATE V (via Think Progress): A Corpus Christi photographer and quail hunter decided to simulate the results on Mr. Whittington's upper torso of a shotgun blast at thirty yards, and the results are in display in the photo at right. Streaming video is here.

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