There's clearly something wrong with US Senator Mitch McConnell.
Twice now, the 81-year-old politician has frozen in place while taking questions, seemingly unable to speak. Back in July, he froze in place during a previous press conference. Then on Wednesday, McConnell froze again for more than 30 seconds after a reporter asked if he were to run for re-election at a conference in Covington, Kentucky.
Voters, for obvious reasons, are concerned. Like California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the apparent infirmity — and perhaps even cognitive impairment — of elected officials who refuse to step down raises profound questions about democracy.
Brian Monahan, the attending physician for the US Capitol, released a letter claiming McConnell "is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned."
But the video evidence to the contrary has neurologists speculating what might really be going on.
"And I think to me, that was the most alarming piece — that putting this in context of other recent events where clearly Senator McConnell wasn't feeling like himself is the most concerning thing," Ann Murray, movement disorders division chief at the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University, told NPR.
Murray also agreed that previous comments made by other experts speculating that McConnell was possibly dehydrated or having a partial seizure were all still technically on the table.
Other experts said Monahan's extremely brief letter, medically clearing the politician for work, fell far short of providing an actual explanation, highlighting how little we actually know.
"If I gave that tape to a medical student and that was his explanation, I’d fail him," Orrin Devinsky, a professor of neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told the New York Times, referring to Monahan's account of what happened. "Medically, these episodes need to be taken seriously."
Several other neurologists told the newspaper that McConnell's episodes are most in line with focal seizures, which are uncontrolled electrical surges in the brain that can affect muscle activity but do not cause the loss of consciousness.
McConnell also had a concussion back in March, which can be a risk factor for seizures.
And if there's one thing experts agree on, it's that having two episodes in a row is far more of a concern than just one.
"Two seizures you definitely would want to treat," Sami Khella, the chief of neurology at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, told the NYT. "You don’t want them to happen — they’re not good for you."
Going forward, the situation may get worse.
"The more the brain seizes, the more it learns to seize," Khella added.
At the end of the day, given the lack of a thorough medical diagnosis of McConnell's current condition, we can only guess as to what the politician is suffering from.
Regardless, even some Republican politicians have come forward saying that they want more details on McConnell's condition if he wants to keep his position as the Senate minority leader.
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