Massachusetts State House

Mass. Senate President Reveals She Had a Stroke, Says She's Running for Reelection

Karen Spilka said her symptoms included a severe headache and nausea, which she said are not typical signs of a stroke

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Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka revealed Monday that she experienced what she said her doctors described as a mild stroke in mid-November, but is feeling much better now.

Spilka spoke one-on-one with NBC10 Boston political reporter Alison King on Monday to share details about what actually happened to her on Nov. 15.

She was away from the Massachusetts State House for almost five weeks, and many wrongly speculated that she had COVID-19. In revealing her diagnosis, Spilka said she felt it was really important for people to hear about what happened to her, from her.

As an advocate for stroke awareness, Spilka knows about the classic warning signs: weakness, a drooping face, sudden loss of vision. She had none of those. Spilka said her symptoms included a severe headache and nausea, which she said are not typical signs of a stroke.

The Democrat said she cancelled a planned trip to Washington on Nov. 15 and sought medical care the next day. She said her doctors advised her to get plenty of rest, but that she was able to maintain her responsibilities as the leader of the Senate.

"I returned to working in a remote capacity the following day and have been working with colleagues and staff throughout my recovery,'' Spilka said in a written statement. "I am feeling stronger every day, and my doctors expect a full recovery within a matter of weeks.''

Spilka said she hoped that by telling her story she can help raise awareness about those who have survived and thrived after experiencing a stroke, and encourage those who are experiencing symptoms to seek immediate help.

Spilka was back in the Senate chamber Monday and has no intention of slowing down.

"I’m happy to announce I am running for reelection," she told NBC10 Boston in a sit-down interview. "I love my job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had."

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Spilka says she's looking forward to the new session, to distributing federal ARPA funds, and focusing on early education and climate change.

"I want to work on mental healthcare and finally get that over the finish line," she added.

NBC10 Boston/The Associated Press
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