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Friday, September 24, 2010

"What's wrong with Reichert's brain?"

Posted by on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 2:20 PM

"What's wrong with Dave Reichert's brain?" That's the question media and political types keep asking each other about the three-term congressman after a string of canceled appearances and a handful of disastrous ones. And the longer Reichert keeps avoiding editorial boards and other interviews, the more this speculation is going to grow.

Of course, we all know about Reichert's head injury, which required surgery last March to relieve pressure on his brain. At the time of his hospitalization, Reichert's office attempted to minimize the incident:

"Congressman Dave Reichert was admitted to George Washington University Hospital yesterday after feeling ill. Following an evaluation, doctors performed a procedure to address a chronic subdural hematoma that was likely the result of a minor head injury. The procedure was successful, and he is expected to make a full and complete recovery."

"Feeling ill," "minor head injury," "complete recovery" and all that. Nothing to be alarmed about.

Yet in one of his rare recent interviews, Reichert remarkably revealed to KING-5's Robert Mak that the injury was far from minor. In fact, according to Reichert, he almost died.

"The right side of my upper body went numb, my right arm went numb, right side of my cheek and neck went numb, and so the macho male and I think the cop thing in me is trying to (say) 'come on, you can, come back to life here,' and I thought maybe I'll just go to the doctors. So I went to the doctor, they said let's go to the hospital, the hospital did a C-T scan, this is at G-W, George Washington University in D.C., CAT scan discovered a blood, a pool of blood on the left side of my brain about the size of my hand, it had pushed my brain to the right side, quite a bit, and so they had to do emergency surgery. They drilled, I think, four holes in my head, and so I had some titanium plugs in my skull."

A pool of blood the size of his hand? Inside his skull? And the muscle-bound Reichert's hands are kinda big.

But perhaps the most startling revelation in Reichert's KING-5 interview is that...

... rather than being the result of a recent injury, as I myself had inferred from the initial reports, the accident actually occurred months before his emergency surgery. Indeed, despite a persistent headache, Reichert had been blithely walking around—and casting votes—with a bleeding, compressed brain for at least two months. You know, at least until the right side of his body went numb.

Now just try to visualize that for a moment. Imagine taking your hand and inserting it inside your skull, just to the right of your brain. I'm guessing you might suffer from quite a bit more than just a little headache.

In fact, according to the Neurosurgery FAQ on the UCLA Health System's web site, headache, memory impairment, confusion and paralysis are just a few of the many possible symptoms of a "chronic subdural hematoma" like Reichert's, an often serious condition UCLA describes as such:

A chronic subdural hematoma (SDH) is an old clot of blood on the surface of the brain beneath its outer covering.

These liquefied clots most often occur in patients age 60 and older who have brain atrophy, a shrinking or wasting away of brain tissue due to age or disease. When the brain shrinks inside the skull over time, minor head trauma can cause tearing of blood vessels over the brain surface, resulting in a slow accumulation of blood over several days to weeks.

Because of the brain atrophy, the liquefied blood clots can become quite large before they cause symptoms.

Less than half of patients remember the traumatic event itself because even relatively trivial trauma, such as a minor bump on the head, can produce these slow hemorrhages.

Sixty-year-old Reichert, it should be noted, does not recall the accident that caused his injury.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Reichert's hand-sized cerebral blood clot is necessarily an indication of prior brain atrophy or wasting, or that such a severe head injury, untreated as it was for two months, would have certainly caused permanent impairment. As UCLA notes, recovery after brain injury varies widely, and...

Overall, 80 percent to 90 percent of patients have significant brain function improvement after drainage of a chronic SDH.

Those strike me as pretty damn good odds of "significant brain function improvement." Not "total," not "complete" but "significant." And sure enough, Reichert's paralysis quickly receded along with the pressure on his brain, as did, presumably, his persistent headaches.

But extended or even permanent impairment is far from out of the question, especially considering, as the UCLA website notes elsewhere, that factors known to diminish recovery include:

"... older age (after age 50 or 60) ... and prolonged and difficult to control pressure on the brain."

Thus it is not unreasonable to expect that a brain trauma as severe as that described by Reichert, in a man of his age, and untreated for so long, could very well have resulted in some degree of permanent neurological impairment.

Which brings us to Reichert's sparse public schedule this campaign season, and his less than reassuring performance at those few events and interviews he hasn't canceled at the last minute. Perhaps, as Reichert staffers have told some members of the press, they see no reason to put him out there when he already enjoys such a comfortable lead in the polls. I mean, Reichert was never the brightest bulb in halls of power, so why give him an opportunity to make a mistake, right?

Or perhaps, like many patients recovering from a severe brain trauma, Reichert has his good days and his bad days, and in recent weeks, the bad days have been more numerous?

For example, one of those bad days was surely the day Reichert sat down with the Seattle Times for a pre-primary editorial board interview. In their stunning rejection of Reichert in favor of Democrat Suzan DelBene and a little know also-ran, the Seattle Times emphasized the need for a "capable ... representative with vision, a sharp grasp of the issues and the ability to lead."

On issues ranging from the wars to the economy, three-term Republican incumbent Reichert is unstudied and comes up short. After six years in office, this is unacceptable. Reichert opposed financial reform, but was unable to explain what he did or did not like about the legislation. The 8th District deserves someone who is faster on their feet.

Is this really the same Dave Reichert the Seattle Times enthusiastically endorsed the last two elections? Well, perhaps not. For six weeks after being blasted by the Seattle Times for being unable to explain his opposition to Wall Street reform, Robert Mak asked Reichert the same exact question, and once again Reichert appears to have drawn a blank.

Let's be honest... Dave Reichert has never been the most articulate or coherent congressman ever to grace the stage in either Washington, but this? From a three-term incumbent? On an issue his experienced staff would have been negligent to fail to extensively prep him on following his disastrous response to the Seattle Times ed board? Man... if I were Reichert's handler, I wouldn't let him give anymore interviews either.

And that might explain why they haven't. And it also might explain an August recess—traditionally a six-week stretch of intense campaigning for time-crunched incumbents—in which Reichert repeatedly disappeared from public view for a week or more at a time.

Congress recessed on Aug. 2, and for the first few days back in town Reichert held a couple private "roundtables" and unannounced public appearances, but from Aug. 7 through Aug. 15 he held no events save a brief visit to the Seattle Yacht Club. Reichert then campaigned lightly the next few days, with events on Aug. 16, 17 and 19, only to completely disappear again for another twelve days, before popping up at a US-Korea Chamber of Commerce meeting on Aug. 31.

Reichert then took another six days off from his ungrueling schedule before making appearances at the Auburn Little League homecoming on Sept. 6, and at Auburn Riverside High School and REI corporate headquarters on Sept. 7. Recess ended on Sept. 12.

Altogether that's 11 days of campaigning over 42 days of summer recess, and even these few events often lasted only an hour or less. Furthermore, Reichert's campaign provided almost zero advanced notice before these events (if you happened to have been at the Ashford Food Bank on Aug. 4 when Reichert showed up, you might have had a chance to ask him a question) and for the most part, no press releases after. If you wanted to figure out where Reichert had been, you had to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

But his scarce public presence makes Reichert look downright extroverted compared to his almost nonexistent media availability.

After his pantsing by the Seattle Times, Reichert goes radio silent for the next 14 days, emerging on Aug. 19 to talk to the Seattle P-I's Joel Connelly, who describes him as "vague, nonspecific." Thirteen days later the Puget Sound Business Journal corners him at the US-Korea Chamber event. And then there's Reichert's unsettling KING-5 interview on Sept. 10.

As far as I can tell that's it. So far Reichert hasn't sat down again with the ed boards at either the Seattle Times or the Tacoma News Tribune (I'm told he canceled the TNT interview at the last minute after he heard DelBene would be there), and he hasn't yet agreed to any debates. His pattern seems to be to not say "no," but not to definitively say "yes," only to cancel due to "scheduling conflicts" at the last minute.

And so far our media seems to be willing let him get away with this, without public comment or criticism.

But privately, that's another matter. Nobody wants to go on the record with their speculation, but speculate they do, and long time observers are starting to wonder if Reichert's diminished schedule and his apparently diminished performance may have something to do with a brain injury that now appears to have been much more severe than anybody first imagined. In other words, they're wondering: "What's wrong with Reichert's brain?"

Which leaves me wondering if the 8th CD is on the verge of reelecting a congressman with an... um... intellectual disability.

Of course, Reichert could put these rumors to rest by releasing his medical records and comporting himself well in a public debate or two with DelBene. But unless and until he does this, I expect these rumors to grow.


Comments (41) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
"I cited the UCLA Medical Health Systems Neurology website, not Bob's Brain Blog."

That made me laugh.
Posted by Stankfish on October 1, 2010 at 1:49 AM · Report this
@37 - Goldy, although I agree with your statement that Reichert's public talk about his injury puts it in the public arena, your article amounted to nothing more than a compilation of Google searches for 'brain injuries.' Without information about his specific condition, you have written nothing but a baseless, presumptive hit piece. Reichert's made many appearances, both public and private over the past several months - he's been working (publically) in DC the rest of the time. Check the Congressional Record. Your leap to questioning whether he is fit to serve is insulting. You didn't question the service fitness of Senator Tim Johnson's who was absent 8+ months from the US Senate after a brain injury.

@25 - SomeOldNodaddy - you sicken me. Although karma is often sweet, I don't even wish what you said in your comment for you..........disgusting as you most certainly are.
Posted by 8th district voter on September 29, 2010 at 10:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 39
Maybe he could resign.

That would have been the proper thing to do - BEFORE the Primary.
Posted by Will in Seattle on September 26, 2010 at 5:47 PM · Report this
Goldy 38
Jessica K @37,

Reichert is a public figure. An elected official. A congressman. His medical issues ceased to remain private once he chose to be a public official. Furthermore, it is Reichert's description of the extent of his injury that I am citing; he can't very well go on TV attempting to evoke sympathy for his near death experience, and then claim that his health is a private matter.

As to citing websites, I cited the UCLA Medical Health Systems Neurology website, not Bob's Brain Blog.

The problem with your assertion, that this doesn't meet the threshold of going to publication, is that without Reichert's cooperation, one can never meet such a threshold for publication. Thus all Reichert needs to do to avoid public speculation about his possible neurological impairment is to continue to stay quiet and out of sight.
Posted by Goldy on September 26, 2010 at 1:14 PM · Report this
@Goldy, not to be picky, but you didn't link to any medical literature, you linked to websites that talk about general medical conditions. I think medical websites are substantially less reputable than medical literature.

Also, I think there's a HUGE difference between knowing what happens to 80 to 90 percent of people with chronic SDH and what is happening to Dave Reichert specifically. It sounds like you have some good questions here that could lead you to start investigating a story, but I hardly think you reach the threshold of going to publication with this ... especially since you're violating someone's medical privacy. You better be extra careful before you start talking about a public official's brain. This is not a laughing matter. This is personal and private. Put yourself in his position. This type of information should not go out unless you are sure.

Also, in terms of not appearing in public and avoiding the media, after brain surgery, even if he is slated for full recover, there is a huge fatigue factor. And as far as you know, that could be all it is.
Posted by Jessica K on September 26, 2010 at 10:03 AM · Report this
Reichert's camp could at least send a petri dish filled with the blood-tainted cerebrospinal fluid to the debate. It might do better in the venue than Dave "I've seen the heartbeat of a stem cell" Reichert....
Posted by Darryl on September 25, 2010 at 8:27 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 35
@6 You had to spend FIVE WHOLE MINUTES reading a thorough exploration of a major state political figure's fitness? Go read a Tweet. Grown-ups are talking here.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on September 25, 2010 at 9:51 AM · Report this
Goldy 34
shooter @29,

So what you're saying is, in a democracy, if a candidate can get away without debating his opponent, good for him. He has no obligation whatsoever to talk to the press or publicly engage on the issues, especially if it might show him to be, by comparison, unqualified, ill prepared or even brain-damaged.

Huh. Welcome to Dave Reichert's America.
Posted by Goldy on September 25, 2010 at 8:21 AM · Report this
Daddy Love 33
I don't know, he sounded like an ignorant chump in his debates with Darcy Burner and it didn't seem to hurt him any.
Posted by Daddy Love on September 25, 2010 at 8:00 AM · Report this
Indeed, despite a persistent headache, Reichert had been blithely walking around—and casting votes—with a bleeding, compressed brain for at least two months.

At the risk of making light of someone's possibly intellectually disabling injury, I've assumed that the above describes most of the Republicans in Congress... and for a lot longer than two months.
Posted by madcap on September 24, 2010 at 11:57 PM · Report this
Bryan T. Bissell 31
Great post!
Posted by Bryan T. Bissell on September 24, 2010 at 10:41 PM · Report this
seandr 30
@27: Reichert is a politician with considerable responsibility. His health and mental capacity are certainly appropriate topics of public discourse insofar as they affect his ability to perform his duties.

Moreover, one can feel sympathy for the man while questioning his ability to do his job.
Posted by seandr on September 24, 2010 at 9:00 PM · Report this
Reichert isn't debating delBene because he doesn't have to. Most of the electorate can't tell the difference between her and the loser who ran against and lost to him twice. Why should he go out of his way to help her publicize herself?
Posted by six shooter on September 24, 2010 at 8:55 PM · Report this
Goldy 28
Sam @27,

Geez... read the medical literature I linked to. Injuries like this in people his age often result in some form of long term or even permanent impairment. Substantial recovery is likely, but "substantial" does not equal total.

So what...? We're not supposed to write about this because it's what? Mean?

I could've had a field day making fun of Reichert, and it would have made for a damn more entertaining post, but I didn't. I laid out a reasonable case for why one might suspect he's suffering from some sort neurological impairment. All he has to do to prove me wrong is do what what we expect of any candidate: publicly debate his opponent.
Posted by Goldy on September 24, 2010 at 6:11 PM · Report this
I'm sorry, Goldy. I've always been a fan of Horses Ass, but this article is in terrible taste. I'm a little disappointed, to be honest. Tear down the guy's political hypocrisy if you want—I'll giggle along with you at his ridiculous excuse for answers in the interview you linked, especially with regard to WSR—but I don't agree with the premise of this article in the slightest.
Posted by Sam S. on September 24, 2010 at 6:02 PM · Report this
Thought provoking article. If only there was a link in the side bar to take me to the well spring of this thoughtful analysis, instead of a link to "beyonce clown".
Posted by Pol Pot on September 24, 2010 at 5:50 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 25

Thank you for the hand-wringing, and I'd like to point out something you've missed: Reichert's job makes him responsible for the direction, health, economic strength & moral stance of this nation of over 300 million. Simply put, it is an absolute necessity to hold our national politicians to the highest standard possible. Reichert's votes and actions have deliberately led this nation into the economic chaos it 'enjoys,' as well as it's pathetic & cruel health care, which scores among the lowest of industrial nations on any criteria you wish to measure. Unfortunately, the bastards and assholes who have created this mess won't be held accountable. It is a beautiful miracle that nature is doing what our leaders are too cowardly to do. He won't rot in jail like he deserves, but at least his brain is slowly leaking out through his ears. I hope he spends the rest of his life crapping his nappies and being spoon-fed tasteless gruel. It's more than he deserves.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on September 24, 2010 at 5:34 PM · Report this
seatackled 24
I guess a pool of blood in his brain the size of his hand is likely even bigger than the middle finger for Bush that Reichert got that school bus driver fired for. Good luck to him, I guess.
Posted by seatackled on September 24, 2010 at 5:13 PM · Report this
Geni 23
Since when is intellectual disability a liability for any Republican?

Sadly, the district still has not attracted a really strong Democratic candidate, although there are several eligible folks sitting in the state legislature. Again, we have a candidate who has no previous elective office experience. That's fine if you're running for city council or school board; not so good when you're running for a national seat. Not that Reichert had any credible experience either, but he had - and still has - name recognition, which is the trump card in most politics. I like Del Bene just fine, and I'll certainly vote for her, but I could wish it were Ross Hunter or Deb Eddy or Pat Sullivan running for this seat instead.
Posted by Geni on September 24, 2010 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Bloggers are not considered "journalists"!!!???

Although evidentially partisian (and in a good way!) this was the most in depth story I've seen on the campaign in the 8th District. Without delving too much into his privacy I think it is fair to ask him if his injury is impairing his job.
Posted by kmq1 on September 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM · Report this
seatackled 21
I do not want the taxpayers to be covering Reichert's medical bills.
Posted by seatackled on September 24, 2010 at 4:45 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 20
Seems like the most humane reason not to re-elect Reichert is so that he can get the treatment & rehab he needs. Being a Congressman, not matter how unimportant or lazy, is pretty taxing. The lack of campaign effort really looks like someone trying to recover from brain surgery, not duck the issues. Good thing he has that sweet health care plan to take care of him. Most of the uninsured would probably die from something like that.

I don't live in that district, but it would be a shame for it to lack serious representation. Is DelBene any better than Marcy D'arcy?
Posted by Sir Vic on September 24, 2010 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Politics aside, I'm sure I'm not the only anxious hypochondriac worrying about a pool of blood on the brain after reading this.
Posted by SoSea Resident on September 24, 2010 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
damn. @15 ftw.
Posted by Will in Seattle on September 24, 2010 at 4:14 PM · Report this
ferret 17
Reichert's answer to Robert Pak's question, kind of reminds me of Sarah Palin's infamous answer to Katie Couric's interview of Palin in 2008.
Posted by ferret http://!/okojo on September 24, 2010 at 4:02 PM · Report this
ferret 16
You did a really good job on this article Goldy... This should be published in a major newspaper or put on a wire service. Much like Senator Jim Bunning has Alzheimer's disease, it is obvious there is something wrong with Reichert.
Posted by ferret http://!/okojo on September 24, 2010 at 3:58 PM · Report this
Fnarf 15
If Reichert is really suffering from irreversible brain damage, he should be in the Senate, not the House. He can hang out with Jim Bunning and John McCain. The House is for CRAZY people, not those with tissue damage.
Posted by Fnarf on September 24, 2010 at 3:48 PM · Report this
Goldy 14
Luckier @13,

Well, as easy as it would have been (the jokes kinda write themselves), I tried not to have fun with this. I hope Reichert loses, but I don't wish him ill health.

The point is, we're electing a congressman here who quite possibly has a significant neurological impairment. I think that's a question that should be addressed, if only by Reichert publicly debating DelBene so that we can see for ourselves whether he has his full faculties. (Or as full as they've ever been. Like I said, the jokes write themselves).
Posted by Goldy on September 24, 2010 at 3:45 PM · Report this
I don't agree with Reichart politically, but I can't feel any Schadenfreude-ian glee at his health problems. I hope his team can convince him to step down.
Posted by Luckier on September 24, 2010 at 2:58 PM · Report this
I don't agree with Reichart politically, but I can't feel any Schadenfreude-ian glee at his health problems.
Posted by Luckier on September 24, 2010 at 2:57 PM · Report this
seandr 11
From what I can tell, brain damage is a requirement, not a drawback, for Republican candidates.

Interesting - I hadn't heard about this before.
Posted by seandr on September 24, 2010 at 2:55 PM · Report this
From the way you've described the injury it seems to make him a shoe in for Tea Party support. His numbers will probably skyrocket.
Posted by Root on September 24, 2010 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
So, basically, he hasn't been in his right mind for HOW long?

Posted by Will in Seattle on September 24, 2010 at 2:43 PM · Report this
The Max 8
I have questions about the sanity of ANY retired top serial-killer hunting supercop who's still sticking with The Republican Guard. In spite of their posturing, it's the right who're soft on crime, short on justice.
Posted by The Max on September 24, 2010 at 2:43 PM · Report this
Whew. Now let me say, helluva story - thank you!
Posted by gloomy gus on September 24, 2010 at 2:42 PM · Report this
danindowntown 6
This post's length has caused blood to start pooling in my skull...
Posted by danindowntown on September 24, 2010 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 5
Gus is right - somebody teach this guy how to do a jump.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on September 24, 2010 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 4
He knocked his head on the barn door during a vigorous round of horse fucking--you heard it here first.
Posted by Original Andrew on September 24, 2010 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
Let me be the first to state the obvious: plenty of room in there for his hand, or a half-dozen of them if you pushed.
Posted by Fnarf on September 24, 2010 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
Why not just replace it.

I hear Rush Limbaugh isn't using his.
Posted by Will in Seattle on September 24, 2010 at 2:23 PM · Report this
We need a jump STAT.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 24, 2010 at 2:22 PM · Report this

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