Hillary’s Health no Longer just a Conspiracy Theory

Hillary Clinton attended the 9/11 tributes and remembrances Sunday morning in New York City. Donald Trump was there too along with thousands of 9/11 family members, memorializing the fallen and showing American fortitude 15 years after that tragic day.

For Mrs. Clinton, it was a difficult morning. She stumbled and nearly fell as she attempted to get into her waiting van. She was literally held up and dragged into the van. Her press pool was kept away meaning the only video evidence of her collapse was from a few bystanders. Media reports described it as a “medical episode.”

Clinton’s campaign staff attributed the episode to Mrs. Clinton feeling “overheated.” It could be due to overheating if it was a hot day. But was it?

The temperature in New York City Sunday morning was a comfortable 80 degrees, hardly a NYC summer scorcher. The forecast was for cooler temperatures than the day before. Were there reports of other memorial attendees suffering a similar fainting spell?

Syncope is a medical term for “a transient self-limited loss of consciousness with an inability to maintain postural tone that is followed by spontaneous recovery.” There are lots of potential causes, mostly benign such as dehydration or temporarily low blood pressure. But sometimes syncope “presages a life-threatening event in a small subset of patients.”

Causes range from circulation, heart conditions, metabolic/endocrine issues or central nervous system dysfunction. In a woman turning 69 next month, a first episode of syncope should be of concern, particularly in a high profile presidential nominee in the midst of a busy campaign season. A trip to the hospital emergency room would not be unreasonable in this situation. On the other hand, if these episodes are common and have already been medically evaluated and attributed to an underlying condition, racing off to the emergency room would not be warranted.

The fact that Mrs. Clinton went not to the hospital but instead to her daughter Chelsea’s apartment, then to her home in Chappaqua, suggests that her syncopal episode was not of serious concern to her or her staff. Or that she is traveling with one or more medical personnel. If the former, that this type of spell is commonplace, why hasn’t Mrs. Clinton told us about it? Seems a presidential candidate would be forthcoming about any significant health issues. What are the implications of such an episode during Mrs. Clinton’s hypothetical “3 AM phone call”? If the latter, and she is traveling with a medic, why is that? The president travels with medical staff, but candidates do not, unless they need it. And if they do, why?

Legitimate concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s health, dating back several years, have been dismissed as conspiracy theories. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2012 described by her husband former president Bill Clinton as “a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over.” She was, and perhaps still is, taking blood thinners. She has an underactive thyroid. Then there are her recent coughing spells. Not to mention the possible seizures, falls and mysterious medical syringe.

These health concerns are not a big deal if they involve the 68-year-old woman living down the block, but they do if the 68-year-old woman is the potential President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Services, arguably the most powerful leader in the Free World.

CNN, not surprisingly, disagrees. Several weeks ago they attempted to debunk the Clinton health conspiracy theories, coining a new term, “healthers”, similar to the Obama conspiracy theorists or “birthers.” Predictably they assert a Trump-Brietbart connection as the source of these wild theories. If the Koch Brothers weren’t part of the #NeverTrump movement, they would have likely been tied to the conspiracy too.

Just a few days ago, Chris Cillizza of the pro-Clinton Washington Post wrote an article entitled, “Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?” He referred to concerns over Mrs. Clinton’s health as, “wacky theories that emerge out of the fever swamps on the very fringe of the conservative movement.”

What a difference a few days and a syncopal episode make. Today Mr. Cillizza has changed his tune, wading into his own “fever swamp.” Writing again in the Washington Post, “Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign.” After several recent coughing fits and her “medical episode” today, he acknowledges, “talk of Clinton's health no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists.”

Another pro-Clinton news outlet weighed in. NY Times bureau chief Adam Nagourney tweeted, “Feels like a good day for Clinton to release her medical records and call on Trump to do same.” Can’t argue with that.

Interestingly Mr. Cillizza, eight years ago, was quite concerned over John McCain’s health. If elected in 2008, he would have been 72 years old at the time, only three years older than Mrs. Clinton if she is elected in November. The concerns over Senator McCain stemmed from potential physical and emotional injuries inflicted during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as well as his previous malignant melanoma.

Fair concerns at the time, despite the fact that eight years later, Mr.  McCain is alive and well, seeking yet another 6-year Senate term.

So why aren’t concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s health worthy of disclosure and discussion? Mr. McCain, unlike Mrs. Clinton, was not exhibiting any behaviors or symptoms of concern, yet the media still fretted over his health.

Perhaps Mrs. Clinton’s “medical episode” on 9/11 will be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, moving her health issues from the realm of conspiracy theory to a legitimate concern and campaign issue.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 

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