Byrd Emergency

Something happened at Senator Robert Byrd’s home this morning prompting the dispatch of a large fleet of emergency vehicles. Manu Raju reports and speculates for Politico:

robert-byrd-waveAmbulances and fire trucks were dispatched to the Northern Virginia home of Sen. Robert Byrd Tuesday morning. A neighbor of the 91-year-old West Virginia Democrat said several ambulances were outside his residence in McLean, Va., and a Byrd spokesman said the senator suffered a fall in his home. An officer at the McLean Fire Department said that a unit was dispatched at 9:10 to the address where Byrd lives, but he declined to comment on the substance of the response.

Byrd — the longest-serving senator in the nation’s history — has been absent from the Senate for much of the
year and has been in and out of the hospital battling various ailments.

“Byrd apparently stood up too fast this morning in his home and fell down,” said Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for the senator. “To err on the side of caution his caregiver called an ambulance. He was taken to the hospital where he is currently being checked out. At this point in time there is no indication that he will be admitted.”

Victoria Hays, who lives in Byrd’s neighborhood, said she saw three fire trucks, two ambulances, a uniformed police officer and security personnel on the driveway of the senator’s house Tuesday morning. Byrd, who serves as president pro tempore of the Senate, which is third in the line of presidential succession, travels full time with security personnel. “We’ve all kind of noticed there have been a lot more nurses” in recent days at Byrd’s house, she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this around his house before. We’re hoping for the best.”

Time and the Washington Independent are also passing on the report with no additional details.

It’s customary in this area for ambulances and fire trucks to be dispatched together. If one calls an ambulance, a fire truck will also show up. More than one of each is incredibly unusual, however, absent both a fire and reason to suspect multiple injuries. If the neighbor’s report is true, I suspect it was overzealousness caused by Byrd’s status.

I hope Byrd is indeed fine and that the ambulance was merely a prudent precaution for a 91-year-old in poor health.

But isn’t it well past time for him to resign his seat? If one can’t actually show up anymore to do the job, one isn’t actually serving, longest or otherwise.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    It may indeed be time for Byrd to retire, but he still delivers the pork, I mean the goods, to the good people of WVA. He may not be able to show up for work everyday, but he sure sends the dollars home.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m not sure how he can even do that anymore without going in to the office. He has been out for nearly a year now.

  3. DC Loser says:

    How much of that can be done by the staffers or his chief of staff?

  4. Larry Sheldon says:

    I’ll not address the “Should Byrd retire” question–that is for him to decide. And he might be the best friend the Republicans have in Congress.

    But the comments on two vehicles being dispatched are, I believe, just wrong.

    I am not an EMT, but I am related to one, and it is my understanding from that source and from a number of others that the actual facts are these:

    The firetrucks carry basic first-responder medical equipment and have EMT trained people aboard.

    For reasons that are not absolutely clear to me, the truck can get rolling faster than the squad can, and often arrives before the squad (ambulance and crew) can and can begin rescue efforts quicker. And if there are other issues like fire, entrapment, and so on the truck has the equipment.

  5. JKB says:

    An interesting article from The Library of Economics and Liberty on why we get a fire truck with every ambulance these days. Seems fire prevention has been too successful giving the engines a lot of downtime.

    We can rest assured that all efforts will be made to determine why Sen. Byrd fell without regard to the cost effectiveness of the testing or treatment. But then as we see with the overwhelming tax dollars spent to respond for his welfare, he isn’t like us peasants.

  6. Larry Sheldon says:

    Yeah, given his age, he doesn’t deserve any care at all, and hasn’t for more years than Omamba and the NHS-here folks have been alive.

  7. just me says:

    There is a part of me that really thinks at some point there should be an upper age limit on congressional seats-it isn’t going to happen, but I am not convinced a senator or representative missing the majority of debate/meetings because of health is a good thing-even if they do have enough power to deliver the pork.

  8. Larry Sheldon says:

    Why is he re-elected?

    Why is “the will of the people” so unimportant?

    Here in Nebraska “they” finally got term limits imposed–for the single purpose of getting rid of a singularly effective state Senator.

    Term limits are just wrong.

  9. mpw280 says:

    Term limits may be wrong but ego limits may be right. If he is lucid enough to know he isn’t doing the job he was elected to do then he should retire, if he isn’t lucid enough then the people should recall him (fat chance of either). As to his staffers doing the work, isn’t that how most all the work is done in DC? I mean either the staffers or the lobbyists write most all the legislation now anyway don’t they? How could our congress critters afford the time to write a 1000 page document and then not know what is in it? mpw

  10. Larry Sheldon says:

    Robert Byrd was re-elected 3 years ago. He must have been doing what his constituents want him to do.

  11. DL says:

    Maybe you’re being a tad judgmental? Perhaps it was one of those “more than four-hour” Viagra emergency things?

  12. Jeff boulier says:

    Two ambulances would not be unusual, assuming one was BLS (basic life support — your O2 and splinting crowd) and one was ALS (advanced life support — the ones that stick IVs in you and give fun drugs). It would also be reasonable to add an engine if it was able to get there ahead of one of the other units.

    Since Fairfax County has paramedic engines, we could even add one of these, assuming things were expected to arrive in this order: Engine, BLS Ambulance & Paramedic Engine, ALS Ambulance. With that large a crowd, then a chief’s buggy might show up to direct.

    So it’s not guaranteed to be super-serious. But that many vehicles, especially given the presence of PD, does suggest either CPR actually in progress or a dispatcher worried that it was likely.