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Cheney goes back to work following pacemaker implant

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney returned to work Monday with a new heart pacemaker in his chest, promoting the energy strategy he assembled for the administration and attending his usual series of White House meetings. "His spirits are high," President Bush said.

Cheney entered the building at 7:45 a.m. — in plenty of time for a session with Bush.

"The vice president's feeling great," Bush told reporters afterward. "I was confident he would be there at 8 o'clock sharp during our national security briefing, and there he was."

Bush said Cheney "sets a good example for Americans who may share the same condition he has, and that is to listen to your body, take precautionary measures, and to be active."

Spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss said the vice president planned a typical day.

After meeting with Bush and White House chief of staff Andrew Card, Cheney was fielding energy questions from reporters in three radio interviews and sitting down with staff members to discuss a range of policy issues, Weiss said.

Cheney planned no public appearances, and was not headed to Capitol Hill, she said. Cheney is a key contact between the administration and lawmakers, but Congress is in recess this week.

A dual-purpose pacemaker was implanted in Cheney's chest in an hourlong procedure Saturday at George Washington University Hospital. He was home a few hours later. Aides eager to show the vice president as unaffected by the procedure volunteered that he had dinner Sunday at daughter Liz's northern Virginia home and then popped into a nearby Border's bookstore for a book on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The device works like any other pacemaker by assuring that his heart does not beat too slowly. When it detects the beat slowing below a certain level, it sends a mild electric charge to pace the beat at a minimum level.

More dramatically, if the heart suddenly surges to a dangerous, high-speed beat, the defibrillator kicks in. It sends an electrical jolt to the lower chamber of the heart and causes it to slow down. Sometimes this will cause the heart to slow too much, and that is when the pacemaker turns on and adjusts the rhythm.

That jolt could be jarring for Cheney, said Dr. Douglas Zipes, president of the American College of Cardiology and an authority on irregular heart rhythms who has consulted with the vice president's doctors.

"That is something he will feel, and patients describe it anywhere from a giant hiccup to a mule kick in the chest," Zipes said on "Fox News Sunday."

"With an electric shock, it contracts all of the muscles, not just the heart but the chest muscles, too," Zipes said. "Yes, it's recognizable."

Cheney's personal cardiologist has said there was less than a 10 percent chance that the defibrillator will be needed to calm Cheney's heart. Asked how the device will affect Cheney's daily life, Zipes said, "Probably not at all."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he had no doubts about Cheney's ability to serve in his job.

"Obviously this has been a matter that the vice president's had to contend with for many years," Daschle said on ABC's "This Week." "He's done it successfully, and I have every expectation he'll continue to do so."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told CBS' "Face the Nation" that Cheney has been "very, very vigorous in carrying out his office, and I expect him to continue to do so."