Eisenhower's Heart Attack: How Ike Beat Heart Disease and Held on to the Presidency

Overview

When delegates to the 1956 Republican Convention sang "Ike for four more years," they were celebrating the President's health as much as his political agenda. Dwight Eisenhower had suffered a heart attack less than a year before, and his decision to seek a second term symbolized for many Americans Ike's victory over a nearly fatal illness. This, it seems, was the intended effect.

Previous Eisenhower biographers have touched on his heart condition, but Clarence Lasby is the first...

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Overview

When delegates to the 1956 Republican Convention sang "Ike for four more years," they were celebrating the President's health as much as his political agenda. Dwight Eisenhower had suffered a heart attack less than a year before, and his decision to seek a second term symbolized for many Americans Ike's victory over a nearly fatal illness. This, it seems, was the intended effect.

Previous Eisenhower biographers have touched on his heart condition, but Clarence Lasby is the first to examine the impact of the president's health on the nation. He offers a dramatic revisionist account of the events surrounding the 1955 heart attack and subsequent efforts by the president and his staff to minimize its political impact.

Drawing on newly-opened medical records and personal papers of Eisenhower's physicians, Lasby challenges virtually everything we have believed about the president's heart attack. Most disturbingly, he has discovered that the president's personal physician, Dr. Howard Snyder, misdiagnosed the attack as a gastrointestinal problem and waited ten hours before sending Eisenhower to the hospital.

Lasby also sets the record straight on how the president and his aides "managed" the public's understanding of events, and he offers evidence that Eisenhower, Dr. Snyder, and press secretary James Hagerty withheld and recast information to serve the president's political priorities.

Equally important, Lasby's book offers a touching portrait of a proud man faced with a debilitating disease. It examines Ike's private struggle to lead a full life despite his condition and analyzes his decision to seek a second term even against the advice of cardiologist Paul Dudley White. It also shows how a man who had always carefully looked after his health now became obsessed with it.

Eisenhower's Heart Attack is both a remarkable medical case history and an incisive character study of a strong-willed leader. It further illuminates one of our nation's most popular presidents, as it recharges the debate over the relationship between politics and presidential health—and between national security and the public's right to know.

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Editorial Reviews

New England Journal of Medicine
Professor Lasby's sure-handed prose style, his organization of a vast amount of material, his understanding of coronary artery disease and its history, and his sensitivity to the drama of the events he describes make history come alive in this highly readable book. He also provides excellent documentation of the influence that this illness in a great public figure had on bringing about more enlightened management of coronary artery disease.
Library Journal
In 1955, Dwight Eisenhower became the first sitting president to suffer a heart attack. The political cover-up and, most significantly, the treatment he received for this attack, his chronic bouts of ileitis Crohn's disease, and the four additional heart attacks that ultimately killed him are the basis for this fascinating, lengthy study. Lasby history, Univ. of Texas, and a heart attack survivor uses recently released medical records and physician papers to show that Eisenhower was a health-conscious and understandably obsessed patient who carefully monitored his diet, exercise, and cholesterol. He is portrayed as a military and medical hero who, with help from Mamie, his wife; Howard Snyder, his attending physician; and political supporters and friends courageously met each crisis and completed a full second term. Eisenhower and the military medical system receive a more positive treatment than found in Robert Ferrell's Ill-Advised: Presidential Health and the Public Trust LJ 9/15/92 or Robert Gilbert's The Mortal Presidency LJ 11/15/92. Strongly recommended, particularly for academic libraries as a good addition to the growing number of books on the health of leaders.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Booknews
Lasby, a historian and heart patient, offers a revisionist account of the events surrounding the President's 1955 heart attack and subsequent efforts by the president and his staff to minimize its political impact. He has learned from newly opened medical records and personal papers of Eisenhower's physicians that the president's personal physician misdiagnosed the attack as a gastrointestinal problem and waited before sending him to the hospital. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700608225
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

List of Illustrations

Introduction

1. The Nation's Number One Killer

2. The Man Who Felt Like Tarzan

3. Misdiagnosis and Cover-up

4. Treatment and Recovery

5. "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going"

6. The Politics of Illness

7. The Life Apart

8. The Struggle to Stay Alive

9. The Meaning

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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