When Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the chamber earlier this month, she needed to be transported in a wheelchair, and images of her arrival went viral almost immediately.
After a lengthy absence, reportedly caused by a severe case of shingles, the 89-year-old Feinstein appeared emaciated, gaunt, and feeble as she acknowledged her well-wishers and her surroundings.
The left side of her face appeared immobilized and one eye was nearly closed upon her return, but according to reports published on Thursday, she was in a worse condition than previously disclosed.
The New York Times reported that Feinstein’s fragile appearance could be attributed to a number of complications that arose following her hospitalization for zoster in February, some of which had not been made public. The infection from herpes zoster spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance problems as well as a facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
In addition, the virus caused an unreported case of encephalitis, a rare but potentially debilitating complication of zoster. Following the initial report by The New York Times, a spokesman verified on Thursday that the encephalitis condition had “resolved itself” in March.
Post-herpetic encephalitis, which is characterized by brain inflammation, can lead to persistent difficulties for patients, such as memory or language impairments, sleep disorders, confusion, mood disorders, migraines, and mobility issues. Typically, older individuals encounter greater obstacles during their recovery.
Prior to her recent illness, Feinstein had encountered significant memory problems, raising concerns about her cognitive abilities, as reported by the Times, which added:
She was ill-prepared to return to work when she did, and she is now struggling to perform in a position that requires long hours, near-constant engagement on a wide range of crucial policy issues, and high-stakes decisions.
Feinstein’s office declined to comment on specifics of the Times article regarding the senator’s health, other than to say that she continues to cope with the aftereffects of Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
Her office also offered this brief statement, allegedly from Feinstein herself which said: “I’m back in Washington, voting and attending committee meetings while I recover from complications related to a shingles diagnosis. I continue to work and get results for California.”
Meanwhile, Feinstein’s colleagues have begun to publicly express concern for her health, including South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who referred to Feinstein as his “dear friend.”
“She’s a dear friend,” the GOP lawmaker told CNN’s Capitol Hill correspondent Manu Raju. “As a friend, you can see she’s hurting.”
In the meantime, Raju asked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), on which Feinstein and Graham serve, if she should resign her seat before her current tenure expires in January 2025.
“I can’t be the judge of that,” he said. “But I will tell you that she has to make that decision for herself and her family as to going forward. But we’re happy to have her back.” He added that he’s “monitoring her medical condition almost on a daily basis.”
According to Liz Kreutz, a reporter for ABC7 San Francisco, Feinstein’s office stated upon her return to the Senate last week that the senator is “experiencing vision/balance impairments and will at times require a wheelchair to travel around the Capitol.”
The office of Senator Feinstein issued a statement regarding her condition and provided an explanation.
More on this story via Conservative Brief:
“Even though I’ve made significant progress and was able to return to Washington, I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus,” she said. “My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate. I’m hopeful those issues will subside as I continue to recover.” CONTINUE READING…