BOSTON - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the lone surviving son in a famed political family who helped define national Democratic Party politics, suffered at seizure at his Cape Cod home on Saturday and was recovering in good spirits at a Boston hospital.
Kennedy, 76, was where he was 'conscious, talking, joking with family,' who quickly surrounded him after he was airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.
Kennedy's wife, Victoria, three of his children and his niece Caroline Kennedy were among those with him at the hospital, where he was watching a Red Sox game on television.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he spoke to Kennedy's wife in the afternoon and was told 'his condition is not life-threatening, but serious.'
'But the one thing I can say, if there ever was a fighter, anyone who stood for what we as Americans, we as Democrats, stand for, it's Ted Kennedy,' Reid said addressing the Nevada Democratic Convention in Reno.
On Saturday morning, Kennedy felt ill at his home and went to Cape Cod Hospital, Cutter said. After a discussion with his doctors in Boston, the senator was flown to Massachusetts General.
An official who declined to be identified by name, citing the sensitivity of the events, had earlier said that Kennedy had stroke-like symptoms. The hospital declined to comment on his condition.
In October, Kennedy had surgery to repair a nearly complete blockage in a major neck artery. The discovery was made during a routine examination of a decades-old back injury.
The hourlong procedure on his left carotid artery - a main supplier of blood to the face and brain - was performed at Massachusetts General. This type of operation is performed on more than 180,000 people a year to prevent a stroke.
The doctor who operated on Kennedy said at the time that surgery is reserved for those with more than 70 percent blockage, and Kennedy had 'a very high-grade blockage.'
Distinguishing between a seizure and a transient ischemic attack, TIA, often called a mini-stroke, can sometimes be difficult.
Seizures are little electrical storms in the brain. They tend to be brief; an occasional one can happen to anyone even without a prior history of seizures, especially if there has been some prior brain trauma.
A stroke is either ischemic - a clog in a blood vessel - or hemorrhagic, bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic ones are very rare. Kennedy had the carotid artery surgery to try to prevent the ischemic type. A stroke kills brain tissue; how much depends on how big it is and how long it lasts. Some people show no lasting effects; others can be partly paralyzed on one side or somewhere in-between.
'Sen. Kennedy was at high risk because he had surgery for an artery in his neck,' said Dr. Wendy Wright, The Emory Clinic, Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurology and Nuerosurgery.