Feinstein Suffered More Complications From Shingles Than She Acknowledged

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May 18, 2023

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), 89, suffered worse complications from her battle with shingles than she previously admitted, according to Thursday report from the New York Times.

Feinstein, who returned to the Capitol in a wheelchair last week after recovering at home since February, also suffered from vision and balance impairments from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, as well as encephalitis, a rare and more serious complication of shingles.

The added difficulties could prolong Feinstein's recovery and difficulty working, the Times reported:

The virus also brought on a previously unreported case of encephalitis, a rare but potentially debilitating complication of shingles, according to two people familiar with the senator’s diagnosis who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe it.

Characterized by swelling of the brain, post-shingles encephalitis can leave patients with lasting memory or language problems, sleep disorders, bouts of confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulties walking.

Older patients tend to have the most trouble recovering. And even before this latest illness, Ms. Feinstein had already suffered substantial memory issues that had raised questions about her mental capacity.

The new details come after Feinstein this week seemed to forget about her prolonged absence.

"No, I haven’t been gone," she told reporters Tuesday after she was asked how her colleagues have treated her since she returned to the Senate last week.

"No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting," Feinstein said. "Please. You either know or don’t know."

Feinstein returned to the Capitol last week in a wheelchair, with her hand "visibly trembling" and her eyes bloodshot, the Huffington Post reported.

Feinstein's health battle is a problem for Senate Democrats, especially on the Judiciary Committee, where her vote is necessary to approve White House judicial nominees. The frail senator has faced calls for her resignation from some Democrats, including Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.). Feinstein announced last week she will work a lighter schedule but she has refused to discuss considering early retirement.

Concerns about Feinstein's memory lapses and health are not new. A new book this month detailed how Feinstein confused one black senator for another in 2021. She approached Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.), who has been in the Senate since 2013, and "stuck out her hand, and told him she had been rooting for him and was so happy to have him serving with her in the Senate." Scott and his team said that "Feinstein had mistaken the South Carolinian for Raphael Warnock, the newly elected Democratic senator from Georgia."

Published under: Dianne Feinstein