WASHINGTON -- Sen. Edward Kennedy suffered a seizure Tuesday during an inaugural luncheon honoring President Barack Obama and was taken to a Washington-area hospital, a jarring note in the Capitol a little more than two hours after Obama took the oath of office.
Kennedy, 76, who had surgery after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor eight months ago, was said by Senate colleagues to be alert and speaking before being put into an ambulance.
He was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he was being assessed.
Vickie Dempsey, a hospital spokeswoman, said Kennedy was awake and talking when he arrived at the hospital. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, and his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., were with the senator, she said.
"Senator Edward Kennedy experienced a seizure today while attending a luncheon for President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol," said Dr. Edward Aulisi, the chairman of the neurosurgery department at Washington Hospital Center. "After testing, we believe the incident was brought on by simple fatigue. Senator Kennedy is awake, talking with family and friends, and feeling well. He will remain at the Washington Hospital Center overnight for observation, and will be released in the morning."
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., a close Kennedy friend who spoke to the ailing senator after the attack, said earlier that Kennedy would undergo medical scans in the coming days.
"The good news is he's going to be fine," Dodd said.
On May 17 last year, Kennedy had a seizure and was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was found to have a dangerous type of brain tumor.
He's since scaled back his work in the Senate. He was present -- and apparently in good spirits -- on the Capitol steps Tuesday, however, as Obama was sworn in as the nation's 44th president.
Kennedy had endorsed Obama at a crucial juncture in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, providing Obama's campaign with a much-needed boost.
Addressing the celebratory luncheon Tuesday in the U.S. Capitol building's Statuary Hall, whose 200 guests included members of Congress and former presidents, Obama said his thoughts were with Kennedy and his family.
"This is a joyous time, but it is also a sobering time," the new president said.
Kennedy's medical distress upset another ailing lawmaker, Sen.
Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who subsequently left the lunch early, according to a spokesman. Byrd, 91, later was reported to be in good condition.
Dodd said that the doctors who'd examined Kennedy "were satisfied that things were looking fine." He said Kennedy had talked to him as he was taken to the ambulance. "He was in distress and still reacting to the seizure."
Byrd, Dodd said, was "reacting to Ted having the apparent seizure."