United States Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returned to work last week in Washington, D.C., appearing "shockingly diminished" and "frail," The New York Times reports.
The 89-year-old senator is still visibly struggling through her recovery from shingles, which according toThe Times "spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance impairments and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome."
The longtime lawmaker, however, still "sees the job as her calling" and has been resistant to calls for her resignation from the physically and mentally demanding job.
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The Times reports:
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. Older patients tend to have the most trouble recovering. And even before this latest illness, Ms. Feinstein had already suffered substantial memory issues that had raised questions about her mental capacity.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said, "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."
However, another senator told The Times that watching the senator "in her current state" has been "frightening."
Similarly, major Democratic donor and a longtime Feinstein supporter, Susie Tompkins Buell, told The Times, "I admire the senator deeply, and I am sorry she is so not well, but the Senate has critical, challenging work to do, and as the stakes are so high and she is not able to be present, to be informed and active, let alone have the rest she needs in order to recover, I feel she needs to step down. And yet she isn’t willing in this state of mind."
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Regarding how future Senate health complications, Re. Katie Porter (D-CA) told CNN Thursday, "We're going to have more people who are absent, we're going to have more people who fall sick, we are going to have more Senators who age given the age of the body," Porter said. "And I think we need some forward-looking policies, not just focus on Senator Feinstein – although I understand the concerns – but really look at how we're going to deal with this structurally."
She continued, "This is unfortunately not the first time that we've had this situation where we had real concerns about how senators are recovering and whether they’re able to come back and really do the job."