Kennedy Is Hospitalized After Seizure

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after suffering a seizure at his home on May 17, 2008. He is a liberal icon of the U.S. Senate and patriarch of the Kennedy family.
By Jonathan Weisman and David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Edward M. Kennedy, a liberal Democratic icon of the Senate and the surviving patriarch of American political royalty, suffered a seizure at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., yesterday and was rushed by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, hospital officials said.

The 76-year-old senior senator from Massachusetts was awake and joking with his family by late afternoon, according to a source close to the Kennedy family who spoke on the condition of anonymity. By early evening, he was watching a Boston Red Sox game and ordering dinner from Legal Seafood, the source said.

Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary-care physician, released a statement saying Kennedy was "not in any immediate danger."

"Senator Kennedy will undergo further evaluation to determine the cause of the seizure, and a course of treatment will be determined at that time," Ronan's statement said.

Further information on his prognosis is not likely until Monday, said a spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter.

Ominous early reports about Kennedy's strokelike symptoms elevated concerns, but the point became moot by afternoon. In his statement, Ronan said Kennedy had not suffered a stroke, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he had spoken with Kennedy's wife, Victoria, and gotten the same news.

Kennedy's condition was not life-threatening but was serious, Reid told reporters at the Nevada Democratic Convention in Reno. Victoria Reggie Kennedy told Reid the ailing senator "woke up fighting."

"The one thing I can say, if there ever was a fighter, anyone who stood for what we as Americans, we as Democrats, stand for, it's Ted Kennedy," Reid said.

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), Sen. Kennedy's son, was by his bedside, as was Caroline Kennedy, his niece. John F. Kerry (D), the junior senator from Massachusetts, visited the hospital.

First-time seizures in someone Kennedy's age can have many causes, including stroke, bleeding in the brain, tumors, alcohol withdrawal and severe derangements of bloodstream chemicals. Such seizures are not rare.

"Beyond childhood, the elderly years are actually the most common time to develop seizures," said Gregory L. Krauss, a neurologist and epilepsy specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "About half the time, it's linked to cerebrovascular disease, often without the person having a full stroke. Sometimes there is just a history of hypertension."

Kennedy, however, has had cerebrovascular disease. Last year, he underwent a procedure to widen a partially blocked left carotid artery, which supplies blood to much of the brain. The procedure is sometimes done preventively if the narrowing is severe enough; Kennedy's was described as "very high-grade" by his physician.

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