VP Joe Biden’s son had mild stroke, expected to recover; transferred to Philadelphia hospital

By Randall Chase, AP
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Doctor: VP Joe Biden’s son suffers mild stroke

NEWARK, Del. — Vice President Joe Biden’s oldest son had a mild stroke Tuesday but is expected to recover, his doctor said.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, 41, was admitted to Christiana Hospital in Newark on Tuesday morning and transferred later in the day to a Philadelphia hospital for observation and further tests.

“He is in good spirits and talking with his family at the hospital,” Dr. Timothy Gardner of Christiana Hospital said in a statement issued through the White House. “He is fully alert, in stable condition and has full motor and speech skills.”

Jason Miller, Beau Biden’s spokesman, had no immediate comment.

The vice president’s office said Gardner would not comment beyond the statement and would not take questions. The office issued a statement later saying Beau Biden was being transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

“The entire Biden family offers its sincerest thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff of the Christiana Care Health System who have provided tremendous care to Beau today,” the statement said.

Beau Biden returned last year from a yearlong deployment to Iraq with his Army National Guard unit. He was a captain and military lawyer in the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade. He had considered running this year for the Senate seat his father held before becoming vice president, but decided instead to run for re-election as attorney general.

A state trooper was stationed at the main entrance of the Delaware hospital and several black SUVs and men in suits with earpieces were nearby.

Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, was seen leaving the hospital. An Associated Press reporter asked how her stepson was doing, but security team members whisked her away before she could respond.

The vice president had traveled to Delaware on Monday afternoon for a scheduled trip. He did a round of morning show interviews from Wilmington Tuesday morning, and was supposed to return to Washington later in the day for his weekly lunch with President Barack Obama and a series of meetings on Afghanistan.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether the vice president was attending.

Democratic Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said he wished Biden the best and declined to comment on how his health might affect the November election.

“Everybody ought to be focused on him getting better,” Markell said.

Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, an associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest University medical school in Winston-Salem, N.C., said it was unusual for young patients in good health to suffer strokes, though there are some cases.

“It’s a lot less common than someone who’s, say, 71,” Bushnell said.

She said doctors will evaluate factors such as whether Biden had a blood clot, blood vessel injury, or signs of his family’s history of aneurysms. However, “the reality is in about 30 percent of cases we don’t know why this stroke happened,” she said.

When Beau Biden announced in January that he wouldn’t run for Senate, he said he needed to focus as attorney general on the high-profile criminal case against pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley, who prosecutors say may have molested more than 100 children over the past decade.

Biden’s decision was a surprise, given that his father’s longtime confidant and former Senate chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, was appointed to the seat essentially to keep it warm for the son until this year’s election.

But longtime Republican Rep. Mike Castle, a two-term governor and one of the most successful politicians in Delaware history, entered the Senate race in October, dramatically increasing the likelihood of a fierce contest.

Beau Biden’s decision left the seat his father held for 36 years vulnerable.

The elder Biden was away from that seat for seven months in 1988 after undergoing surgery for brain aneurysms.

More than a decade earlier, in 1972, he lost his wife and infant daughter when a tractor-trailer broadsided their station wagon when they were getting a Christmas tree. Beau and his brother Hunter were critically injured but recovered.

The vice president devoted himself to caring for his two sons as a single father and still will not work on Dec. 18, the date it happened. The elder Biden seldom speaks of that day and remains sensitive about his children’s welfare.

Beau Biden recalled the accident when introducing his father at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“I was just short of 4 years old. One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about,” Biden said. His father was sworn in to the U.S. Senate at the hospital, at his bedside, he said.

At the convention, the vice president said in return: “Beau, I love you. I am so proud of you. I’m so proud of the son you’ve become. I’m so proud of the father you are.”

Beau Biden, who is married with two young children, has worked as an attorney in private practice. He also worked for the Justice Department between 1995 and 1997 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1997 to 2002.

Associated Press Writers Ben Nuckols in Baltimore, Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md., and Nafeesa Syeed and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

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