WASHINGTON - Long-time US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer since May, collapsed in the middle of the Inauguration Day luncheon honouring President Obama Tuesday, according to media reports.
Kennedy, 76, the last surviving brother of former president John F. Kennedy, suffered a seizure shortly before 3 p.m. just after Obama took oath as the president, and was taken from the Satatuary Hall in the Capitol in a wheelchair, CNN reported.
The news put a damper on the spirits of Obama’s historic inauguration celebration.
In remarks of the veteran senator, a visibly shaken Obama said: ‘I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him.’
‘This is a joyous time, but also a sobering time. Our prayers are with him and his wife, Vicki,’ he said.
Kennedy was awake and talking at Washington Hospital Center, where he was taken for observation. With him were his wife, Victoria, and his son, Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island.
A hospital spokeswoman said Kennedy was awake and answering questions as he was being assessed, the report said.
Kennedy, the third-longest serving senator in US history, underwent surgery in June for a malignant brain tumour. He had since returned to work in Congress but on a limited schedule.
According to Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, the room had fallen silent, the lights dimmed and a crowd formed around Kennedy at the moment of his seizure.
President Obama went to Kennedy ‘immediately, to be helpful’ after realizing that he had become ill, Rockefeller told reporters.
Earlier, media reports said that West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, 91, the oldest and longest-serving member of Congress fell ill and medical attention was sought.
But, Byrd’s office subsequently said that he was fine.