A Democratic member of Congress is battling what she calls “Parkinson’s on steroids.”
Wexton, 55, has progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disorder that has no cure.
“I’ve been worse since September. It’s been tiring,” she said. “It’s awful.”
Like I said when I announced my PSP diagnosis, this disease sucks.
It’s been a difficult journey but I’m working as hard as ever to serve #VA10.
I’m sharing my experience to raise awareness of what PSP is and why it’s so important to find a cure. https://t.co/xqx8Iog4or
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) November 18, 2023
The 10-week session in which the House flirted with a federal shutdown and then endured the drama of electing a new speaker was particularly rough on the congresswoman.
The endless tension and floor votes, she believes, weakened her to the point where she suffered a fall several weeks ago that injured her neck.
Wexton speaks with difficulty. Fellow members “don’t know what to do with me, because they can’t understand me,” she said.
“I want to try to jump into conversations, and I can’t,” Wexton said. “Cognitively, I’m just fine. It’s just so frustrating for me to not be able to communicate verbally.”
Wexton’s chief of staff, Abby Carter, recently sent a letter to lawmakers advising them to ask Wexton to repeat herself or write down what she’s saying if they can’t understand her.
In September, Wexton sat for an interview with The Washington Post.
“It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all. … I’m going to die, which isn’t fair,” she said.
She said that after her diagnosis, she asked her doctor if she could still run for re-election.
His reply, she recalled, was “Why would you want to?”
According to the National Institutes of Health, progressive supranuclear palsy “affects body movements, walking and balance, and eye movements.”
“The disease usually worsens rapidly and most people with PSP develop severe disability within three to five years of symptom onset. PSP can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, choking, or head injuries from falls,” the NIH says.
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