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Kennedy, Byrd Taken From Inaugural Luncheon

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA LUNCHEON SPEECH, JANUARY 20, 2009)

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.

David Welna
David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
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