During her months-long absence from Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) suffered complications from shingles that were not previously disclosed, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The 89-year-old Feinstein returned to the Senate on May 10 in a wheelchair after being hospitalized in early March with shingles.
According to the Times, the illness spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance impairments and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Sources told the Times that it also brought on a previously undisclosed case of encephalitis, which can potentially be debilitating.
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. At 89, Feinstein would be among those with the most trouble recovering from such a condition.
In fact, it’s been reported that Feinstein appears to be having trouble with her memory.
When asked Tuesday by a reporter about her return to Congress, she replied, “I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.” Then she added, “I’ve been here. I’ve been voting.”
She did vote several days this week.
Feinstein had been under pressure to return—and also faced calls from some House Democrats to retire—as Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) had acknowledged that her absence had slowed down Democrats’ efforts to confirm President Biden’s judicial nominees in the otherwise evenly-split committee between Democrats and Republicans.
Upon Feinstein’s return last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement saying, “I’m glad my friend Dianne is back in the Senate and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. After talking with her multiple times over the past few weeks, it’s clear she’s back where she wants to be and ready to deliver for California.”