The office of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) disclosed late Wednesday that the veteran lawmaker has been unable to breathe regularly on his own since emergency brain surgery was conducted last month to fix a brain hemorrhage, an indication that his condition has been significantly more delicate than previously acknowledged.
A source close to the family explained Wednesday that during surgery in December to address a hemorrhage brought on by arteriovenous malformation, Johnson’s lungs began to fill with fluid, making it impossible for him to breathe on his own. This source argued the development is not uncommon in complicated, lengthy surgeries like the one performed on Johnson, and that his condition has improved to the point that he needs the assistance of a ventilator only at night.
The source also said Johnson’s inability to verbally communicate has been caused largely by the respirator he requires to breathe and is not directly connected to his condition.
While it is expected that Johnson faces months of recovery and rehabilitation, his most recent round of tests indicate he is largely out of the woods, his office said Wednesday.
In a statement released by his office, neurosurgeon Dr. Vivek Deshmukh said an angiogram performed Wednesday morning on Johnson “revealed no evidence of residual arteriovenous malformation. Sen. Johnson continues to be responsive to both his family and physicians — following commands, squeezing his wife’s hand, and understanding speech.”
Deshmukh also said in the statement that Johnson’s “breathing has steadily improved and now he only requires ventilator assistance at night.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.