Senate President Spilka discloses 'mild' stroke and says she's 'feeling great'

Senate President Karen Spilka had what she said was "a mild stroke" in mid-November and was told by her doctors to get some rest, she said Monday in a television interview that explained her weekslong absence from the State House.

"I'm fine. In fact, I'm feeling great now. But I wanted to speak out because I think it's really important for people to hear about what happened to me from me," she said in an interview with NBC 10 Boston's Alison King.

Spilka said she woke up with a "really bad headache" that got worse and brought on nausea the morning she was supposed to visit the White House, Nov. 15. King said Spilka called her doctor and was told to go to a hospital, where she got an MRI.

"I had what my doctors diagnosed as a mild stroke," the Ashland Democrat said. She added, "I was very tired, I was very fatigued afterward and my doctor said to rest. That was his prescription to me."

After presiding over a Nov. 10 session, the Senate president remained at home recovering during the year's final formal session on Nov. 17, but monitored sessions from home and voted remotely as most senators have during the pandemic. By Nov. 26, a Spilka aide reported that she was feeling better after what her office had characterized as an "illness."

With Spilka still absent from the State House last week, a spokesperson reiterated that she was feeling better told the News Service she was "fully engaged" in the Senate's work. Spilka was back in the building Monday, presiding over the Senate session.

King reported that Spilka returned to remote work the day after her stroke and is expecting a full recovery.

On the same day that Spilka suffered her stroke, the Joint Committee on Public Health heard testimony on legislation (H 2253, S 1477) that would charge the Department of Public Health with developing criteria for designating hospitals into a tiered system based on their ability to treat strokes at different severity levels. The Senate last year unanimously passed a version of the bill, but House leaders did not bring it to the floor for a vote and it died in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Spilka's counterpart in the House, Speaker Ron Mariano, had his own health-related episode earlier this year. The Quincy Democrat was hospitalized while in Florida and fitted with a pacemaker after experiencing "some medical discomfort" in June. He said last month that he now feels "great."


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