IJMC Archives

July 2001
                   IJMC - Shocking George W. Bush

Always fun when you are watching a movie that does not appear in either
major internet movie database. Yet Martin Sheen appears in it. Typically,
I like movies that deal with time travel and similar subjects, but this
one needs a bit of help. And they just killed the cutie. So wrong.  -dave

By Tom McNichol July 13, 2001 | WASHINGTON --

Bush rests comfortably after surgery to implant pacemaker in his brain.

Thanks to a device similar to the one in Vice President Dick Cheney's
heart, the nation has healthy, clear-thinking, plain-speaking leaders
again. In the second White House health scare in little more than a week,
doctors Wednesday night implanted a sophisticated pacemaker in President
Bush's brain. The device, known as an implantable cranial defibrillator,
or ICD, continuously monitors and records the president's brain waves.
When Mr. Bush's brain activity becomes dangerously slow for a chief
executive, the device delivers a mild electric shock, jolting the
president back to a relatively active mental state.

"I feel good," the president told reporters several hours after the
operation. Bush then twitched noticeably. "I mean, I feel well," he said.
Doctors say the implant is performing flawlessly, although they're trying
to limit the number of shocks Bush receives to fewer than 100 a day. The
surgery came barely a week after Vice President Dick Cheney was fitted
with a device to regulate his irregular heartbeat.

The White House portrayed last night's medical procedure as an "insurance
policy" against further problems for the president.  At a news conference
at George Washington University Hospital, where the operation was
performed, doctors downplayed the seriousness of Bush's condition. The
periodic electric jolts from the implant, physicians say, will have
minimal effect on the president.  "His hair is not going to stand on end,"
said chief surgeon Dr. Alan J. Thayer. "Well, maybe a little."  The
president, looking tired but fit after his operation, said that the device
will help him function better as a world leader.  "The American people
need to know that their president is equipped to handle a trouble spot
like Slovenia," Mr. Bush said. "Serbia, I mean Serbia," he added, his head
jerking violently.

Bush has an extensive medical history of moderately impaired thinking, and
reasoning, dating back to the 1970s. Doctors have long noted that the
president's thoughts easily become confused, and that his public
pronouncements often deteriorate into a tangle of mispronunciations,
faulty logic and bad grammar. Although Bush's condition wasn't serious
enough to prevent him from running for president, or from winning the
state of Florida.  Doctors say his condition has deteriorated
significantly in recent months. The president's brain wave activity dipped
dangerously low during his recent trip to Europe, and stopped altogether
at one point during a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The
Russian leader was unaware of any change in Mr. Bush's condition,
officials say.

Yesterday, the president's doctors subjected him to a battery of mental
tests to assess his risk of developing a potentially fatal "zero brain
wave" pattern. Once the risk was confirmed, surgeons decided to implant
the electronic device, which acts both as a pacemaker and a defibrillator.  
The pacemaker component is programmed to speed up the president's thinking
when it becomes abnormally slow. The defibrillator can shock his brain
back to a normal state if Bush's thoughts become "too fast," although
doctors say that the chances of that happening are remote.  The device
that doctors sutured to the base of the president's cerebellum is known as
a Medtronic Gem IV DR model. (There were some problems with an earlier
model, which had to be recalled by the manufacturer.)  Such devices, once
the stuff of science fiction, have become an increasingly common tool in
modern neurology. Hundreds of prominent Americans have been fitted with
so-called mental pacemakers in recent years, including actor Adam Sandler,
TV personality Mary Hart, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, singer
Britney Spears, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., former vice president Dan
Quayle, and the entire board of directors of the now-defunct Pets.com.

Some of those who wear a mental pacemaker expressed hope that the
president's condition would raise public awareness about their
circumstance. "This may turn out to be a blessing in the skies for all of
us," said talk show host Maury Povich, who was fitted with one of the
first Medtronic devices four years ago. Mr. Povich trembled violently from
head to toe before adding, "I mean disguise, disguise, for God's sake,
turn it off."

Bush has been advised to avoid deep thoughts for a few days to give the
device a chance to settle in place. Doctors say the president so far has
cooperated fully with the recommendation. Bush has also been told to
alternate holding his cell phone against his right and left ear so the
implant receives equal doses of radiation from each side. And the
president will have to run at full speed whenever passing through White
House metal detectors.

Several congressional leaders privately expressed concern about the
president's medical procedure, coming barely a week after Cheney was
fitted with a device to regulate his irregular heartbeat. But Bush
dismissed the worries, stating that the Bush-Cheney team is "more fit than
ever" to lead the country.

"You'll find no healthier duo than Dick Cheney and I," Bush said. The
president hesitated, as if waiting for a signal, and when none came, broke
into a toothy grin.

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