Sanders health scare raises an age-old issue

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2019 10:24:50 PM
Modified: 10/2/2019 10:24:41 PM

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted out an optimistic note to his followers Wednesday afternoon from a Las Vegas hospital after having two stents inserted because of a clogged artery.

“Thanks for all the well wishes. I’m feeling good. I’m fortunate to have good health care and great doctors and nurses helping me to recover,” the 78-year-old Sanders wrote, adding the political message, “None of us know when a medical emergency might affect us. And no one should fear going bankrupt if it occurs. Medicare for All!”

But how long the catheterization procedure will sideline the Vermont independent from the campaign trail, and how it will affect him politically, are two big questions.

“His age was an issue, and this makes it a little more salient, but a lot of it depends on how he recovers and how long it takes,” said Linda Fowler, a Dartmouth professor of government.

The age question also could splash onto former Vice President Joe Biden, who turns 77 next month, and to a lesser extent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is 70.

“I think he’s fortunate that the other two frontrunners are close to his heels in terms of age, so they are not in a position to exploit it,” said Fowler, who also noted that Warren is a vigorous campaigner who “doesn’t show her age as much.”

Canaan resident Ralph Epifanio, an independent who attends and photographs many of the campaign events in the Upper Valley, said he saw Sanders speak to more than 600 students and other Upper Valley voters on Sunday at the BEMA, a wooded area on the Dartmouth campus, and that Sanders was “as sharp as a tack.”

“It was a stellar performance, and I didn’t see any degradation from when I saw him four years ago,” Epifanio said. But he also worried that President Donald Trump would use the health scare against Sanders, if needed. “Trump will be all over him,” Epifanio said.

Epifanio also said Sanders seemed sharper than Biden did at a recent appearance in the Upper Valley, when Biden referred to being in Vermont when he was in fact in New Hampshire.

The minimally invasive cardiac procedure Sanders underwent, which does not involve surgery, is “relatively common” and is used to treat blockages of the coronary arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, said Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin, the chief of cardiovascular medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Kuvin, who has no first-hand knowledge of Sanders’ health condition, said patients typically can return to a “normal life” after having stents inserted, but it also depends on whether the patient was having a heart attack at the time and the extent of heart damage incurred.

“I will say, in general, if the procedure goes smoothly, the patient does not have other major comorbidity and there has not been a significant amount of heart damage, the recovery of a stenting procedure is quick, within a matter of a day or two,” Kuvin said.

Coming to the Valley

Four candidates struggling for recognition will be campaigning in the Upper Valley soon.

New age author Marianne Williamson is speaking at the Claremont Community Center at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, then will have a private tour of the Claremont MakerSpace later that day.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is making a three-day New Hampshire swing and will be speaking at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Earlier in the day, Bennet will be talking to DHMC workers about health care and holding a public event at Wheeler Hall at the Colby-Sawyer College campus in New London at 1 p.m.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, R-Mass., is coming to the Dartmouth campus, speaking on Thursday at 4:15 p.m. at Filene Auditorium in an event being organized by Dartmouth College Republicans.

“We are confident that Mr. Trump will win in 2020, and we’re also the party of free speech,” said Dartmouth junior Alexander Rauda, who grew up in Maryland and is the treasurer of the Dartmouth Republicans. “Given both of those things ... we have no problem with other people presenting their cases.”

And former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., is holding a town hall at the Common Man restaurant in Claremont on Sunday, Oct. 13, at 9 a.m.

Briefly noted

■Former state Sen. Molly Kelly, the Democrat who lost to Gov. Chris Sununu in 2018, won’t run again for governor in 2020. “I am committed to doing everything I can to help elect a Democratic governor in New Hampshire and a Democratic president of the United States in 2020,” she said in a statement. “I will be on the front lines fighting hard for leaders who truly serve and represent the people of New Hampshire.”

■Sullivan County Republicans are holding a “Freedom and Liberty Reception” Friday evening at the Center at Eastman in Grantham with guest speaker Robert Spencer, the founder of the Jihad Watch blog who appears as a commentator on Fox News.

Spencer, not to be confused with white nationalist Richard Spencer, is nonetheless labeled as “one of the most prolific anti-Muslim figures in the United States” and has devoted much of his writing with the “goal of vilifying and maligning Muslims and the Islamic faith,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Maria Ryan, the CEO of Cottage Hospital, accompanied former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to a state dinner at the White House on Sept. 20 honoring Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, according to the guest list. Giuliani visited the Woodsville hospital last year. An email seeking comment from Ryan, who has been CEO there since 2010, was not returned.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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