WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant Saturday and is recovering at a Virginia hospital, his office said.

An aide to Cheney disclosed that the 71-year-old, who has had a long history of cardiovascular trouble including numerous heart attacks, had been waiting for a transplant for more than 20 months.

“Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift,” aide Kara Ahern said in a written statement.

Cheney was recovering Saturday night in the Intensive Care Unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.

The former vice president suffered a heart attack in 2010, his fifth since he was 37. In January 2011, Cheney said he was getting by on a battery-powered heart pump, which made it “awkward to walk around.”

Cheney served as former President George W. Bush’s vice president for eight years, from 2001 until 2009. Cheney was a lightning rod for criticism during Bush’s presidency, accused by opponents of often advocating a belligerent U.S. stance in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.