Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) spoke publicly for the first time since undergoing surgery after suffering a stroke last month, releasing a video on Sunday reassuring his constituents that he’s on the road to recovery.
The video showed the senator sitting between two neurologists from the University of New Mexico Hospital, Drs. Michel Torbey and Diana Greene Chandos. Luján said that he’s grateful for the providers at UNM Hospital and at Christus St. Vincent Medical Center for treating him, as well as for the “outpouring of support my family and I have received from across New Mexico and around America.”
“I’m doing well, I’m strong, I’m back on the road to recovery. And I’m gonna make a full recovery, I’m gonna walk out of here, I’m gonna beat this, and I’m gonna be stronger once I come out,” he said, adding that he will be sent to an inpatient rehabilitation facility after being discharged from UNM Hospital.
“That’s gonna take a few more weeks,” he continued. “I’m proud to report ... I’ll be back on the floor of the United States Senate in just a few short weeks to vote on important legislation and to consider a Supreme Court nominee. Now rest assured, New Mexicans can know they have a voice and a vote during this process. That has never changed.”
The 49-year-old checked himself into Christus St. Vincent in Santa Fe on Jan. 27 after he began to experience dizziness and fatigue. The senator was then transferred to UNM’s stroke center in Albuquerque, where he was treated in the critical care unit for a stroke in his cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance.
“I want to stress how important it was that the senator acted fast and was able to get health care, medical care promptly, and was brought into a comprehensive stroke center,” Torbey said in the video. “As a state-first comprehensive stroke center, it is crucial for us to work and educate the community about the signs of stroke. Identifying those signs and acting on them quickly can save your life and the life of a loved one.”
According to Greene Chandos, further testing showed that a tear in Luján’s vertebral artery caused the stroke. The senator was started on blood thinners before doctors determined he needed to undergo decompressive surgery to relieve pressure in his brain. The surgery was successful and the brain swelling was contained, the doctor said.
Luján “did very well after his surgery and continues to make significant progress. Our team of physicians, nurses and therapists in the neuroscience’s critical care unit worked with him daily to get him ready for rehabilitation,” Greene Chandos said. “Throughout every stage of his treatment. Sen. Luján was actively participating in all decisions. He was always appreciative of our work and our cutting-edge program.”