Senator Edward M. Kennedy was hospitalized Saturday morning after suffering apparent seizures, CNN and the Boston Globe are reporting.
It was originally thought that Kennedy may have suffered a stroke, but that appears not to be true.
Sources say that Kennedy was spending time at the family compound in Hyannisport when he fell ill shortly before 8:30 a.m. He was first taken to Cape Cod Hospital before later being flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that affects physical actions for a short time, according to the Epilepsy Therapy Project. Seizures are not a disease, but rather symptoms of many different disorders that can affect the brain. Seizures can mimic stroke-like symptoms, but a stroke is a specific vascular problem.
The senior senator from Massachusetts had surgery in October to clear a carotid artery. Doctors hoped that this surgery would prevent a stroke. Family members said they are “guardedly optimistic” that he will make a full recovery.
Family members also said that Kennedy was well enough to call and cancel lunch plans he had made with them. Presidential candidates McCain, Clinton, and Obama sent wishes of a speedy recovery. Senator John Kerry was seen arriving at Mass General Saturday afternoon, presumably to visit with Senator Kennedy.
The senior senator
Senator Kennedy has represented Massachusetts since his election to the Senate in 1962. He is the currently the second most senior member.
According to Kennedy’s website, he has fought for the people of Massachusetts and the nation on issues ranging from health care to education reform to strengthening civil rights.
Senator Kennedy is the youngest of 9 children and is the brother of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.
An aging Senate
Senator Kennedy is 76 years old and has served in the Senate for 43 years. Compared to Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), Kennedy is young. Byrd is 90 years old and has served in the Senate for 49 years since he was first elected in 1959. He is the longest serving Senator in the history of the legislature.
The average age of a US senator is 62. The ages of senators range from 90 to 43. Six senators are age 80 or older and thirty-five senators are between the ages of 65 and 79.
Of those senators vying for the presidency in the 2008 election, Senator McCain is 71, Senator Clinton is 60 and Senator Obama is 46.
The increasing age of US Senators fuels a debate surrounding the trade-off between age and ability to serve. A more senior senator will most likely bring more political and overall experience to the position. However, age also leaves a senator more vulnerable to health issues and fatigue from the demands of holding a national political position.