IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Kennedy leaves hospital after tumor diagnosis

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy walked out of the hospital accompanied by family members on Wednesday, one day after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor that experts say is almost certainly fatal.
Image: Edward M Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy hugs his niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg as he leaves Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston,Wednesday morningJosh Reynolds / AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy walked out of the hospital accompanied by family members on Wednesday, one day after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor that experts say is almost certainly fatal.

A square bandage at the back of his head marked the spot where doctors performed a biopsy Monday that led them to diagnose him with malignant glioma. 

The 76-year-old senator, the last son in a famed political family, was diagnosed with a malignant glioma in his left parietal lobe — which helps govern sensation, movement and language — after suffering a seizure in his home Saturday morning. Malignant gliomas are diagnosed in about 9,000 Americans a year.

Kennedy's dogs, Sunny and Splash, met him at the hospital door Wednesdasy. Hospital workers and well-wishers greeted Kennedy with applause. Before he and his wife, Vicki, got into a dark Chevrolet Suburban, he kissed his daughter, Kara, and his niece Caroline Kennedy, and embraced his son, lawmaker Patrick Kennedy.

The senator departed with a wave as television news helicopters followed his 75-mile trip south to his Cape Cod home. Along the way, he could be seen waving to nearby motorists from the front passenger seat of his sport utility vehicle.

Recovery from biopsy
Doctors announced Kennedy "has recovered remarkably quickly" from the brain biopsy. They said he will recuperate at his home over the weekend while awaiting further test results that will help determine his treatment plan.

"He's feeling well and eager to get started," said Dr. Lee Schwamm, a top neurologist at Massachusetts General, and Dr. Larry Ronan, Kennedy's primary care physician.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Vicki Kennedy told friends the grim diagnosis was "a real curveball" that left the family stunned even as Kennedy joked and laughed with them. She expressed pride in how her husband was handling the news.

"Teddy is leading us all, as usual, with his calm approach to getting the best information possible," she wrote in an e-mail Tuesday to friends.

"He's also making me crazy (and making me laugh) by pushing to race in the Figawi this weekend," she wrote, referring to the annual sailing race from Cape Cod to Nantucket.

The diagnosis cast a pall over Capitol Hill, where the Massachusetts Democrat has served since 1962.

Fellow senator weeps
Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate, wept as he prayed for "my dear, dear friend, dear friend, Ted Kennedy" during a speech on the Senate floor.

"Keep Ted here for us and for America," said the 90-year-old Byrd, who is in a wheelchair. He added: "Ted, Ted, my dear friend, I love you and I miss you."

In a statement, President Bush saluted Kennedy as "a man of tremendous courage, remarkable strength and powerful spirit." He added: "We join our fellow Americans in praying for his full recovery."

Kennedy has been active for his age, maintaining an aggressive schedule on Capitol Hill and across Massachusetts. He has made several campaign appearances for Sen. Barack Obama.

"He fights for what he thinks is right. And we want to make sure that he's fighting this illness," Obama said Tuesday. "And it's our job now to support him in the way that he has supported us for so many years."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said: "Ted Kennedy's courage and resolve are unmatched, and they have made him one of the greatest legislators in Senate history. Our thoughts are with him and Vicki and we are praying for a quick and full recovery."

Kennedy has left his stamp on a raft of health care, pension and immigration legislation during four decades in the Senate. In 1980, Kennedy unsuccessfully challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Kennedy family has been struck by tragedy over and over. Kennedy's eldest brother, Joseph, died in a World War II plane crash; President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963; and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Ted Kennedy shocked the nation in 1969 when he drove his car off a bridge to Massachusetts' Chappaquiddick Island and a young female campaign worker drowned. Kennedy, who did not call authorities until the next day, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month jail sentence.

Kennedy, the Senate's second-longest serving member, was re-elected in 2006 and is not up for election again until 2012. Were he to resign or die in office, state law requires a special election for the seat 145 to 160 days afterward.