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Update:A press conference this morning in Washington, D.C., provided news that Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, had brain surgery last night and is recovering without complication. Senate Majority Leader-Elect Harry Reid, D-NV, said he'd visited with Johnson and he's doing fine. Earlier reports that Johnson had suffered a stroke were in error. Latest word is that he experienced an intracerebral bleed -- a congenital condition in which a tangle of brain arteries and veins sprung a leak. Surgery drained the leaked blood and fixed the leak. This latest report may stem initial speculation that Democratic control of the Senate was in danger.

Sen. Johnson Suffers Stroke

Update: A press conference this morning in Washington, D.C., provided news that Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, had brain surgery last night and is recovering without complication. Senate Majority Leader-Elect Harry Reid, D-NV, said he’d visited with Johnson and he’s doing fine.

Earlier reports that Johnson had suffered a stroke were in error. Latest word is that he experienced an intracerebral bleed — a congenital condition in which a tangle of brain arteries and veins sprung a leak. Surgery drained the leaked blood and fixed the leak.

This latest report may stem initial speculation that Democratic control of the Senate was in danger.

A Democratic senator from South Dakota has reportedly suffered a stroke, thereby raising the possibility that the Republican Party could regain control of the Senate.

Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD, suffered a stroke Wednesday during a teleconference interview with reporters, and was taken to a Washington, D.C. hospital.

Thanks in part to Jon Tester’s victory over Republican incumbent Sen. Burns last month, the Democratic Party was gearing up to take control of the U.S. Senate next month, where they enjoy a 51-49 edge over the Republicans.

The possible scenario that could play out, should Johnson be incapacitated or die from this stroke and other potential complications, his temporary replacement would be appointed by South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, a conservative Republican. If Johnson was replaced by a Republican (there’s no rule that a replacement has to be of the same party), the Senate would then be 50-50 and by virtue of having Vice-President Dick Cheney as the tie-breaker, control of the Senate (at least until a special election could be held in South Dakota) could swing to the GOP.

All this is speculation, and strokes do not always result in incapacitation or death. According to WebMD, stroke strikes about 700,000 Americans each year, but the vast majority of people survive. Close to 5 million stroke survivors are managing their health today.

According to WebMD, strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or “mini strokes”) can result from blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. They can also occur when a blood clot from elsewhere in the body — like the heart — moves through the bloodstream and lodges in an artery that feeds the brain. In a TIA, the blockage only lasts just a few minutes at most. In a stroke, the brain cells are starved of oxygen for a longer time. This can cause more permanent damage or death.

The most common symptoms are:

Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body.
Loss of vision or dimming (like a curtain falling) in one or both eyes.
Loss of speech, difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying. Sen. Johnson reportedly stuttered when trying to answer a question, seemed confused, but then regained control — a positive sign.
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Loss of balance or unstable walking, usually combined with another symptom.

MSNBC has information that he cannot speak and played the radio interview where he stuttered and became disoriented — seemingly the moment of his stroke.

NBC also noted that in two previous cases (one in South Dakota) where a senator became incapacitated, they refused to step down and served out their terms.

There is one other senator in ill health – Sen. Craig Thomas, R-WY — who returned to work after three weeks of cancer treatment. Thomas seems to be responding well to his treatment, cutting short any speculation that Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal might have to appoint his replacement.

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