Tuesday, September 26

Sen. Luján: ‘I’m back on the road to recovery’ | Local News

US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who suffered a stroke more than two weeks ago, said in a video message Sunday he’s “back on the road to recovery” and plans to return to the US Senate floor in a few weeks.

“I’m doing well,” said Luján, who at times appeared to be reading from a statement, as two doctors sat at either side of him. “I’m strong. … I’m going to make a full recovery. I’m going to walk out. I’m going to beat this. I’m going to be stronger once I come out.”

Luján has faced criticism about his lack of transparency on his health status. His office did not announce Luján had suffered a stroke until several days after it happened.

The Foundation for Open Government, or FOG, urged Luján’s office last week to release more information about the senator’s health, saying a “balance” must be stuck between his privacy and the public’s right to know.

“We’re so happy and relieved to hear news from Sen Luján that he’s doing well, feeling strong, and on the road to recovery,” FOG, which promotes transparency in government and lobbies for stronger freedom of information laws, tweeted after Luján released his update.

“New Mexicans are pulling for you and sending our thoughts and well wishes!” the tweet stated.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, addressed the issue of FOG wanting more information about Luján during Saturday night’s House floor session.

Egolf said FOG “should be ashamed for trying to make a public issue out of a very private, troubling event” involving the senator and his family. He also asked FOG to give Luján’s family “the privacy they need and deserve” and not turn the senator’s health into “political football.”

Wearing a face mask and a baseball cap with a Zia sign emblazoned on the front, Luján said in the video that he will be sent to an inpatient rehabilitation facility to “conclude” his recovery after he leaves the University of New Mexico Hospital.

“That’s going to take a few more weeks,” he said.

“Now, I’m proud to report that I’ll be back on the floor of the United States Senate in just a few short weeks to vote on important legislation and to consider a Supreme Court nominee,” he said. “Now rest assured, New Mexicans can know they will have a voice and a vote during this process.”

Luján suffered a stroke in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, Dr. Michel Torbey said as Luján listened. Torbey is the professor and chair of neurology and the medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the UNM Hospital.

“I want to stress how important it was that the senator acted fast and was able to get health care and medical care promptly and was brought into a comprehensive stroke center,” he said.

“He was started on blood thinners, and he was further carefully watched for brain swelling,” said Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, who was also at Luján’s side. “We did determine that medication would not be enough and Sen. Luján underwent decompressive surgery to relieve him of the pressure in his brain. The surgery was successful and the brain swelling was contained.”

Greene-Chandos said Luján did “very well” after his surgery and continues to make significant progress.

“Our team of physicians, nurses and therapists in the neurosciences critical care unit work with him daily to get him ready for rehabilitation,” she said. “Throughout every stage of his treatment of him, Sen. Luján was actively participating in all decisions.”

Greene-Chandos said Luján will be discharged to a rehabilitation program “where he can continue to improve and get back to his healthy and active lifestyle.”

Torbey commended Luján “for his strength and resilience.”

“We knew right away he’s going to be the type of patient who would take his health seriously and put in the work to get back to a healthy and active lifestyle,” he said.

Luján began his remarks by expressing his thanks for the “outpouring of support” he and his family have received not just from New Mexico but across the nation.

Luján concluded his remarks by thanking his doctors and others for the care he has received while hospitalized.

He also said he was eager to return to life outside a hospital.

“I look forward to being out there with you on the mountain bike, eating and cooking, ranching, farming, whatever,” he said. “I look forward to seeing you all here real soon. God bless you. I love you.”

Staff writer Robert Nott contributed to this report.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.


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