wow.. well, accidents happen.
Harry Whittington, 78, is in stable condition in intensive care and will remain hospitalized for up to seven days, hospital officials said.
"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," said Peter Banko, administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial.
Doctors were deciding how to treat Whittington's condition, which was discovered after doctors noticed an irregularity in his heartbeat, Banko said.
Dr. David Blanchard, the hospital's emergency room chief, said Whittington suffered an "asymptomatic heart attack," without displaying symptoms such as chest pains or breathing difficulty. He said a roughly 5 mm piece of shot became lodged in or alongside Whittington's heart muscle, causing the organ's upper two chambers to beat irregularly.
Physicians from the White House staff, who helped treat Whittington after Cheney shot him in a Saturday hunting accident, have been consulted on the situation, Banko said.
Authorities have cleared Cheney of wrongdoing in the accidental shooting of Whittington, but questions about Saturday's incident remain.
During Tuesday's White House news conference, spokesman Scott McClellan was asked if waiting 14 hours after the shooting before Cheney spoke with police was appropriate, and whether an average citizen would have been afforded the same amount of time.
"That was what was arranged with the local law enforcement authorities," McClellan said. "You ought to ask them that question."
McClellan referred other questions about Cheney's shooting of Whittington, a Bush-Cheney campaign contributor, to the vice president's office and local police.
Cheney arrived for work at the White House on Tuesday without comment and a spokeswoman said the vice president had no plans for any public statement about the matter.
Cheney and Whittington were hunting quail on a friend's south Texas ranch Saturday when the accident took place.
The state Parks and Wildlife Department issued Cheney a warning for not possessing a required stamp on his hunting license, but the sheriff's deputies announced there was "no alcohol or misconduct involved in the incident."
"This department is fully satisfied that this was no more than a hunting accident," the Kenedy County Sheriff's Department announced in a statement issued Monday evening. (Watch reporters pepper White House spokesman with questions about the shooting -- 2:03)
Sheriff's deputies in Kenedy County, near Corpus Christi, questioned Cheney on Sunday and Whittington on Monday. Whittington was out of intensive care Monday and in stable condition at a Corpus Christi hospital.
A prominent Texas lawyer and a campaign donor to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, Whittington was hit on the right side of his face, neck and chest when Cheney turned to fire on a covey of quail at a ranch near Kingsville, Texas, on Saturday. But Cheney's office did not disclose the shooting until Sunday afternoon, after the family that owns the ranch told a Corpus Christi newspaper about it. (Time.com: How Cheney stalled news reportsexternal link)
McClellan told reporters on Monday that the focus in the immediate aftermath of the shooting was to make sure the man Cheney wounded got medical attention.
"It's important, always, to work to make sure you get information out like this as quickly as possible," McClellan said. "But it's also important to make sure that the first priority is focused where it should be, and that is making sure that Mr. Whittington has the care that he needs."
McClellan said Cheney agreed that his friend Katharine Armstrong, who accompanied the shooting party, should tell the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about the incident, a move that provoked sharp questions from reporters.
Asked whether it was appropriate "for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has shot someone," McClellan said, "That's one way to provide information to the public."
"The vice president spoke with her directly and agreed that she should make it public and that they would provide additional information," he said.
Cheney, an avid hunter, was shooting at a covey of quail at the Armstrong Ranch near Kingsville, southwest of Corpus Christi, when the accident occurred. According to Armstrong, a daughter of Anne Armstrong, Whittington shot a quail, dropped back from the rest of the hunting party to retrieve it and was rejoining the group when Cheney fired.
Katharine Armstrong said no one discussed informing the public about the incident until Sunday morning, when she and her mother raised the matter with Cheney. Saturday night, she said, "The only concern we all had was about Harry."
But she said Cheney made it clear he knew it had to be made public.
A medical team accompanying the vice president administered first aid to Whittington when the accident occurred at 5:50 p.m., Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur said. The Secret Service told sheriff's deputies about the accident an hour later, after Whittington was headed for a hospital in Kingsville and the hunting party had returned to the ranch house, he said.
A Kenedy County sheriff's deputy questioned Cheney about the shooting on Sunday, Mazur said.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told President Bush about 7:30 p.m. Saturday that there had been a hunting accident, but Card did not know the vice president had been involved at the time, the White House said. About 8 p.m., after talking with Armstrong, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Bush that Cheney had shot Whittington.
Whittington was hit upon rejoining the group and "apparently came up unannounced" as Cheney prepared to fire, Armstrong said Sunday.
Whittington has been active in Texas GOP politics since the 1960s and served as chairman of the state Board of Corrections from 1979 to 1985. In 1999, then-Gov. Bush named him to the state Funeral Services Commission, which had been stung by allegations of widespread corruption and mismanagement in the industry. (Whittington profile)
Anne Armstrong served on the board of directors of Halliburton, the oil field service company Cheney ran before becoming vice president. She also served as U.S. ambassador to Britain in the Ford administration.
CNN's Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux and Tim McCaughan contributed to this report.