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U.S. Commerce Secretary Resigns, Undergoes Medical Tests After Car Accident

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U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson.

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson continues to get medical tests after crashing his car into two cars (one of them twice) in California, after suffering a seizure, news reports say. He announced on Monday night that he was taking an immediate leave of absence to take care of his health. Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank becomes the Acting Secretary during his leave.

As Scott Gold, Kate Mather, and Andrew Blankstein write in a Los Angeles Times article appearing in the Boston Herald:

According to a statement from law enforcement officials, Bryson was driving through the city of San Gabriel, not far from his family home in San Marino, shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday when he rear-ended a Buick whose driver was waiting for a passing train. Bryson stopped briefly to speak with three men inside the Buick, then returned to his car and left, striking the Buick a second time.

The driver followed Bryson for two miles, while calling 911 seeking help. In the nearby city of Rosemead, authorities said, Bryson crashed into a Honda Accord. He was found a short time later, alone in his car — he was not working and not accompanied by security, officials said — and unconscious.

There were no serious injuries, officials said, though three of the five people who were in the cars Bryson struck told paramedics they were in pain.

Bryson “was cited for felony hit-and-run but was not booked because he was taken to an area hospital,” according to Kathleen Hennessey, Andrew Blankstein, and Kate Mather in the Los Angeles Times blog L.A. Now. As Commerce Department spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman told The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and David A. Fahrenthold, prior to the accidents on Saturday night, Bryson had never experienced a seizure, and that toxicology tests confirmed that neither alcohol nor drugs played a role in the accidents. Medical professionals said Bryson will probably require “a battery of tests, including blood analysis, a brain-wave test and EKG monitoring,” reports the Boston Herald.

As the Boston Herald writes:

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two main types of seizures — ‘primary’ seizures involving both sides of the brain and partial seizures involving smaller regions of the brain. Sometimes seizures indicate epilepsy, but not always; other causes could range from the relatively minor, such as a sleep disorder, to the critical, such as a cardiac problem.

California police reports suggest that Bryson might have suffered a “partial complex seizure,” which affects behavior but does not lead to immediate unconsciousness, as Ed O’Keefe and David Brown write in Tuesday’s Washington Post. Such seizures can last for four or five minutes, and patients can drive, although not well, and lack normal awareness, Gregory L. Krauss, a neurologist and epilepsy specialist at Johns Hopkins University who is not involved in Bryson’s treatment, told The Washington Post.

Krauss said that a person experiencing such a seizure is generally confused for up to an hour afterward, and that when a seizure first occurs in a person of Bryson’s age (68), “the most common causes are a brain tumor; recent head trauma; or blood vessel abnormalities, including small strokes.”

Bryson was in Pasadena, California, last week delivering the commencement address at Polytechnic School, from which his daughters had graduated, the Boston Herald reports, and although his speech was passionate and eloquent, “Several times, Bryson, a polished public speaker, appeared to lose his place in his remarks. He mispronounced words without correcting himself.” Some people assumed he was just nervous. “But it may have been something quite serious — the onset of what officials described as a series of seizures, leading to two hit-and-run car accidents,” according to the Boston Herald.

The Washington Post writes:

On Monday, however, it was unclear what caused Bryson’s seizure and what part it played in the collisions. The secretary has ‘limited recall’ of the events, Friedman said. The Los Angeles County district attorney will decide whether to prosecute him, based on the felony citation he was issued for leaving the scene of an accident.

Image by U.S. Department of Commerce, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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