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Kennedy, Byrd Taken From Inaugural Luncheon


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. There was a medical emergency today after the inauguration. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy became ill at the luncheon in the Capitol. Kennedy is fighting a brain tumor. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He is now reportedly conscious and answering questions. NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA: John Kerry, who's Ted Kennedy's fellow senator from Massachusetts, told reporters as he left this afternoon's luncheon that the 76-year-old senator got sick while everyone was still eating.

JOHN KERRY: We got the medical emergency team there, and they gave him immediate attention. And we just left him now, sending him off to the hospital with Vicki.

WELNA: Vicki is Kennedy's wife. Connecticut Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, who is also a close friend of Kennedy's, said nobody suspected anything was amiss with the Massachusetts senator, despite his having had surgery last year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

CHRISTOPHER DODD: It was just about the end of lunch, I think the desserts were just being served, so towards the end of lunch. And we had talked. I talked to him several times. Jackie, my wife went over and had a nice chat with him and I know the president went over and chatted with him, so he was feeling pretty good.

WELNA: Several other sources in the room say Kennedy had a seizure that lasted at least 10 minutes and that he showed signs of that seizure as was wheeled out of the lunch by paramedics. Again, Senator Dodd.

DODD: It was tough. It took a lot out of him. Those seizures are exhausting. But the doctors were great, they did a good job. They were in there and knew what to do. Vicki was with him and - Mrs. Kennedy, and she knows what to do as well. And so they were very satisfied that things were looking fine for him.

WELNA: President Obama rose at the end of the lunch and called Kennedy a warrior for justice.


BARACK OBAMA: I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now, a part of me is with him. And I think that's true for all of us. This is a joyous time, but it's also a sobering time.

WELNA: There were also reports that West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd had fallen ill during the lunch. But those attending said the 91-year-old senator, who uses a wheelchair, was only showing concern for Senator Kennedy's condition. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.