Hillary's Two Medical Minefields

Some of Hillary Clinton's health and medical issues are well known: a previous fall and concussion, blood clot, chronic anticoagulation, and underactive thyroid.  Then there is speculation about other problems – neurologic disease including Parkinson's, post-traumatic brain injury, and seizures.  And not idle speculation, either.  There are numerous video clips of Mrs. Clinton's bizarre head movements and facial expressions, lengthy coughing fits, and unusual eye movements, plus her famous 9/11 collapse.

To the casual observer, whether a trained physician or someone without a medical background but with common sense, something is clearly wrong with her.  A diligent press would be investigating, asking questions, demanding answers.  Maybe in an alternate universe.  In the present universe, the vast majority of the so-called media are circling the wagons around Mrs. Clinton, doing everything they can to avoid the issue and its implications, accusing anyone with legitimate questions about her health as a conspiracy kook – or their new term, a "healther."

Despite Mrs. Clinton and her media enablers avoiding her health issues, two serious minefields remain in her path to the White House, especially with the upcoming presidential debates.  Whatever is wrong with her and causing her well documented episodes, it is neither predictable nor preventable.

Someone with severe respiratory disease can tell in advance when her breathing will become labored, due to air temperature, air quality, physical exertion, or other factors triggering a bout of wheezing and coughing.  Same for a migraine sufferer, often having an aura before the skull-splitting headache.  For someone working, driving, or in the public eye, such advanced warning is valuable, allowing the person to protect herself and others from potential harm.

Mrs. Clinton does not seem to have such warning.  Coughing fits may occur during a fundraising speech or during an impromptu press conference aboard her campaign plane.  Her facial tics may occur not only when she is behind closed doors, but also when she is in front of reporters.  Collapsing in the privacy of her home is different from collapsing on the street during the 15th anniversary of 9/11, in view of a serendipitous bystander with a camera.

The second issue is preventability. Whatever is causing these "health episodes," as the media euphemistically calls them, is obviously not preventable; otherwise, they wouldn't be happening.  Mrs. Clinton has access to the best medical care available, around the clock, with trained health care personnel as part of her entourage.  (This level of medical care is certainly not one of the "ten essential benefits" of Obamacare, but that's insurance for the hoi polloi, not the ruling class.)

If Mrs. Clinton's doctors can't prevent these episodes, no one can.  It's clearly not your standard seizure disorder or asthma, where flare-ups can usually be prevented with maintenance drug therapy.  Mrs. Clinton's health issues are like the bogeyman in a horror movie: ready to pop out when least expected.

Is it any wonder Mrs. Clinton is limiting public campaign appearances?  The more she is in the public eye, in front of cameras, the more likely she is to have another of these episodes.  And have it broadcast on YouTube.

What about the debates?  Ninety minutes on stage in one of the most important moments of the presidential campaign.  Tens of millions of voters watching on television.  Standing under bright lights, flashes from cameras, challenging (depending on who is moderating the debate) questions.  The perfect storm of triggers for a seizure or coughing fit.  Or something worse.

Remember an old sci-fi move, The Andromeda Strain?  One of the scientists, Dr. Ruth Leavitt, had a seizure disorder, causing her to become catatonic when viewing a flashing red light.  This was followed by an actual grand mal seizure, causing her to miss a critical piece of the puzzle to cure a devastating disease.

Mrs. Clinton has been photographed recently wearing blue sunglasses – not because she wants to look like Bono or Ozzy Osborne, but perhaps because she has photosensitive epilepsy, a seizure disorder that can be prevented or mitigated by wearing blue-tinted eyeglasses.  This type of seizures can be triggered by flashing lights or overexposure to videogames – much like in The Andromeda Strain.  Might watching a teleprompter be considered similar to playing a videogame?

It's a high-stakes game for Mrs. Clinton and her handlers, placing her on stage, in front of bright lights, camera flashes, and teleprompters – all things that could trigger a seizure, to be captured on the camera phone of a spectator at a campaign event or viewed by tens of millions of voters during the presidential debates.  It's enough to give Mrs. Clinton's handlers and medical staff their own seizures.

Given the public nature of a presidential campaign, odds are that there will be a repeat of the morning of 9/11.  It's one more reason to seek answers to the very legitimate questions about the health and well-being of a potential commander in chief.

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

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