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By David Espo, Published January 20 2009

Kennedy taken from luncheon with Obama

WASHINGTON — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., battling a brain tumor, became ill at a post-inauguration luncheon for President Barack Obama on Tuesday and was rushed by ambulance to a hospital.

There was no immediate word from medical personnel on his condition, although fellow senators said he had suffered an apparent seizure and remained conscious as he was taken for further evaluation.

A spokeswoman at the Washington Hospital Center, where Kennedy was taken, said he was awake and answering questions. His wife Vicki and son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., were with him.

There was no immediate word on what tests would be conducted. Standard procedure in cases like Kennedy's calls for a CT scan to search for any bleeding or any other abnormalities in the brain.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W., Va., told reporters that Obama noticed when Kennedy became ill, and rushed over to his table.

"There was a call for silence throughout the room," he said. "The president went over immediately. The lights went down, just to reduce the heat, I think."

In his remarks, Obama said his prayers were with the stricken senator, his family and wife, Vicki.

"He was there when the Voting Rights Act passed, along with John Lewis who was a warrior for justice," the newly inaugurated president said.

"And so I would be lying to you if I did not say that right now a part of me is with him. And I think that's true for all of us," Obama said.

"It looked like a seizure," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who said he was with Kennedy until they reached the ambulance.

Kennedy has suffered previous seizures since he became ill and underwent surgery last summer.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., quoted Kennedy as saying, "I'll be ok, I'll see you later" as he was put into the ambulance.

"The good news is he's gonna be fine," Dodd added.

Kennedy, 76, had appeared in good health and spirits hours earlier when he stepped out of the Capitol and onto the inauguration platform where Obama took the oath of office. His endorsement for the former Illinois senator had come at a pivotal point in the Democratic presidential race, and the older man campaigned energetically for the younger one.

Kennedy has suffered seizures since he was stricken and had surgery for his tumor last year, but it was not known what caused him to fall ill at the early afternoon lunch.

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale said Kennedy was swapping stories with others at their table when "something happened. I don't know what it was, he just stopped."

"It was really kind of a shock to us all," he added.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, 91, also left the luncheon early, but his office and others said his health was not the reason.

Byrd "is currently in his own office...and is doing fine, though he remains vcery concerned about his close friend, Ted Kennedy," said Mark Ferrell, a spokesman for the West Virginia Democrat.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.