Second-term Sen. Johnny Isakson has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but the Georgia Republican says he’ll still be gunning for re-election in 2016.
“Over 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s and I am one of them,” Isakson, 70, said in a statement today. “I first went to see a neurologist in 2012 for stiffness in my left arm. I continued seeing the neurologist regularly to try to figure out the cause, and in 2013, I was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s.”
“I am in the early stages of the disease, and my main symptoms are the stiffness in my left arm and a slowed, shuffling gait. The recovery from the back surgery I had in October 2014 also has affected my gait,” he said. “I have undergone rigorous physical therapy; I do exercises every morning and evening; and I take two Parkinson’s medicines.”
Isakson candidly revealed that while “facing this health challenge head on, I have wrestled with whether to disclose it publicly.”
“I recently shared the news with my three grown children and my senior staff a couple of months ago. Their support, along with the steadfast support of my wife Dianne, helped me to take this step today. In the end, I decided I should handle my personal health challenge with the same transparency that I have championed throughout my career,” he said.
“My diagnosis has not impacted my ability to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. I am serving on five Senate committees and am the only Republican serving as chairman of two Senate committees. I am busier and have more responsibility today than ever before in my political career, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I remain devoted to public service, to my state and to my constituents. I am eager to take my record of results to the voters of Georgia as I run for re-election in 2016.”
Isakson leads the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Ethics Committee.
The senator also released a statement from his neurologist, Dr. Thomas Holmes, stating that his most recent assessment of Isakson’s health was on May 27.
“Using physical examination and several accepted Parkinson’s disease rating scales, I have concluded that Senator Isakson is in Stage 1.5 of 5 accepted stages of Parkinson’s disease. This staging is indicative of his mild symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” the doctor said. “…I believe he is fully capable of continuing to perform his duties as a U.S. Senator, and I believe he is fully capable of running for re-election and serving for another term.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “no one works harder than Johnny Isakson, who is the only Senator who is chairing two committees in the Senate.”
“This diagnosis will not slow him down one bit,” McConnell added.