By BosNewsLife Chief International Correspondents Stefan J. Bos and George Whitten
WASHINGTON D.C., USA (BosNewsLife)– The inauguration lunch of President Barack Obama was overshadowed Tuesday, January 20, by a medical emergency involving Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy and concern over fellow Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, the president confirmed.
Officials were seen rushing to National Statuary Hall when the dual incidents happened during the extensive lunch. Kennedy suffered a seizure at the end of the lunch, and a series of convulsions lasted a while, senators said.
Byrd, 91, and in failing health, was reportedly “emotional” at the time of his collapse and security detail decided to remove him from the room as a precautionary measure. His office said in a statement he is fine now.
Byrd and Kennedy were at the same table — along with Vice President Biden and second lady Jill Biden, officials said.
Obama, who apparently rushed to the scene accompanied by secret service personnel, later expressed concern about the situation.”This is a glorious and happy moment, but also tempered with concern over the health,” of the senators, he said.
There was brief silence for silence prayers were said for Kennedy, several senators said.
Kennedy was taken out on a wheelchair and had to have his legs lifted up to get him out of the room, witnesses said. He was loaded onto an ambulance and removed.
Senator John Kerry and wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, helped Kennedy get into the reclining chair in which he was wheeled out. Senators said Kennedy appeared in pain, but that prayers were spoken by a group officials and that Obama also gave him comfort.
Later in the evening Kerry said Kennedy’s health had improved, but that he had to remain in hospital for at least another night, U.S. media reported.
Last summer, the Massachusetts Democrat was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor.
His friends Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut suggested he was responding well to the medical treatment, indicating to both that he was OK.
Kennedy was one of Obama’s earliest supporters and is credited with leading the pack of lawmakers who pushed Obama’s popularity. Obama told the group that Kennedy was in his family’s prayers.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said he is a great admirer of Kennedy even though they disagree philosophically. “He’s been a courageous fighter as he has been for his entire career. … Our thoughts and prayers go with him,” Cornyn said in comments on U.S. networks.
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared distressed after the lunch, shortly before accompanying her husband in the black limousine for the parade to the White House, amid tight security.