Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was rushed to a hospital in Maine on Monday afternoon after suffering a seizure at his summer island home.
Roberts, 52, fell on a dock after having a “benign idiopathic seizure,” said Kathleen Landin Arberg, the court’s public information officer. She said that Roberts has “fully recovered from the incident” but that he would remain at Penobscot Bay Medical Center here overnight for observation.
She said he experienced a similar event in 1993 but had no recurrence until Monday.
Seizures are any sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. While some are focused in one part of the brain, others can be generalized. Not all seizures involve convulsions. Arberg’s description of a benign idiopathic seizure indicates an episode whose origins are unknown.
Roberts is the youngest member of the Supreme Court. In November 2005, Newsweek reported that Roberts had “suffered a seizure in January 1993 while golfing.”
“It was stunning and out of the blue and inexplicable,” Larry Robbins, a Justice Department colleague, told the magazine. Robbins said Roberts was not allowed to drive for several months after the seizure and took the bus to work. The magazine quoted a senior White House aide as describing the episode as an “isolated, idiosyncratic seizure.”
There is no record of any discussion of the 1993 seizure or of Roberts’s health in general during his confirmation hearings. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who chaired the hearings, told CNN on Monday night that senators were told about the previous episode but did not find it serious enough to ask Roberts about. Roberts has no known history of major illness.
The seizure occurred around 2 p.m., Arberg said, as Roberts was “stepping off a boat after doing errands near his home on Hupper Island, which is about halfway up the Maine coast.”
The WaPo notes that “Hupper Island is part of the village of Port Clyde, which is contained in the town of St. George, according to Town Manager John M. Falla.” The island is not connected to the town by bridge, and Chief Justice “Roberts was brought by private boat to the mainland and taken by ambulance to the hospital, about 20 miles away.”
AP News reports in Forbers that the seizures could be epilepsy (h/t to GTL):
Someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is determined to have epilepsy, said Dr. Marc Schlosberg, a neurologist at Washington Hospital Center, who is not involved in the Roberts’ case.
Whether Roberts will need anti-seizure medications to prevent another is something he and his doctor will have to decide. But after two seizures, the likelihood of another at some point is greater than 60 percent. “When it’s going to occur, obviously nobody knows,” Schlosberg said.
The National Institutes of Health’s Web site says that “only when a person has had two or more seizures is a person considered to have epilepsy.”
Epilepsy is merely a term for a seizure disorder, but it is a loaded term because it makes people think of lots of seizures, cautioned Dr. Edward Mkrdichian, a neurosurgeon at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch.
Still, Mkrdichian said anyone who has had two otherwise unexplained seizures is at high risk for a third, and that he puts such patients on anti-seizure medications.
“Having two seizures so many years apart without any known culprit is going to be very difficult to figure out,” agreed Dr. Max Lee of the Milwaukee Neurological Institute.
An early report from Maine Coast Now noted that “St. George Ambulance responded to a call at about 2 p.m. Monday of a man who had fallen 5 to 10 feet and landed on a dock, hitting the back of his head. The patient was ashen and was foaming at the mouth.” Far more dramatic and perhaps scarier than the MSM has reported. H/T to Libby at The Impolitic for the Maine Coast Now report.