Sen. Mark Kirk suffers stroke; media reaction troubling

Senator Mark Kirk, the Republican who took the seat formerly occupied by Barack Obama out of the Democratic Party, has suffered a debilitating stroke that is not expected to damage his cognitive functions, but which could lead to some physical impairment, according to the Chicago Tribune. There are encouraging signs that he is doing "better than expected," and is even asking for his Blackberry.

That dedication to his work is one thing about him, along with his intelligence, that has impressed many observers, even some of those more conservative than the proudly "moderate" Kirk.

However, I find it troubling that Chicago Magazine published a piece by Carol Felsenthal in which the journalist admitted that  she called the Senator's ex-wife, broke the news of the stroke to her, and then published her reaction, essentially blaming the senator for his own stroke.

She was shocked to hear about her ex-husband's stroke, and I hated to be the one to deliver the news. But a few minutes into our conversation, she said that, sadly, she was not surprised about the senator's health.

Vertolli described a man who had difficulty sleeping and suffered from panic attacks, relentless levels of stress, and debilitating migraines that required him to retreat into a dark room. "There were a lot of indications I saw that told me that he had to slow down or alter his behavior or lifestyle," she said. "He doesn't take care of himself and doesn't take breaks. To him, fun is editing papers; he has to always be doing something." Vertolli recalled that on their honeymoon to Italy and France, Kirk-then in the first of five terms in the U.S. House-did relax, but "pretty much slept the entire time."

She recalled her ex-husband as "not a person who places fitness as a priority."  He belongs to a health club in Lake Forest, she said, but he only went every few months. When Vertolli went out for a run in the morning, she went alone, as Kirk was "out of breath after the simplest thing." She also mentioned a "terrible diet," heavy on muffins, cookies, ice cream, donuts, and red meat. "He ate what was put in front of him," she said.  He didn't have time to prepare food or to shop. But, she added, he never smoked, and he "barely drank-socially, that's it." Common risk factors for a stroke include physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight.

Can you imagine a media outlet link a prominent AIDS sufferer's promiscuous sex life to his condition? How about blaming Ted Kennedy's drinking for his physical difficulties and ultimate death?

We do urge Senator Kirk and all our readers to take care of their health, of course. But this sort of treatment is all but unthinkable when a Democrat is involved.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol