Rand Paul’s Injuries May Dog Him for Months, Even Years
The senator from Kentucky was blindsided by a neighbor, who attacked him from behind as he stepped off a riding mower
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is still in quite a bit of pain from his rib injuries, according to his wife — and he suffers every time he draws breath.
Paul can expect the road to recovery to be difficult but not lifelong, said a trauma expert familiar with the treatment of broken ribs and related illnesses caused by such fractures.
"Patients are in a significant amount of pain," said Dr. Elliott R. Haut of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, speaking to LifeZette on Monday. "Rib fractures hurt a lot ... You don't quite breathe normally. You're taking smaller, shallow breaths."
Trauma surgeons like Haut take rib fractures very seriously, he said, because the older the patient, the more likely the fractures can cause death at the time of injury.
"Rib fractures are a really big deal," said Haut, who has a medical degree and a Ph.D. "They kill a lot of people, especially elderly patients. You don't need to be 90. Even for patients in their 50s, they can get knocked back."
Paul is 54. He was injured on November 3 when neighbor Rene Albert Boucher, 59, allegedly attacked him from behind, tackling him as Paul was tending to his lawn. Boucher was arrested by state police, and he pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault on November 9 in a Warren County court.
Paul suffered six broken ribs, three of which were displaced; pleural effusion, a buildup of fluids around the lungs; and pneumonia, according to his wife, Kelley Paul.
When Paul insisted he come back to the Capitol after the incident to cast an important vote, he was sicker than he let on, said Kelley Paul in Wednesday's CNN op-ed.
"As we walked through the airport returning from D.C., he was shivering with a 102.5 fever, and the next morning his internist diagnosed pneumonia in his damaged lung," she wrote.
Pneumonia itself is a nasty disorder. It's an infection "that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus ... causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing," according to the Mayo Clinic's website. In Rand Paul's case, the pneumonia was perhaps caused by the contusions to his affected lung.
Most people with multiple broken ribs recover in time without crippling or noticeable pain through the rest of their lives — although lifelong pain is a small possibility.
The good news, said Haut (who has not treated the senator), is that most people with multiple broken ribs recover in time without crippling or noticeable pain through the rest of their lives — although lifelong pain is a small possibility.
Still, Paul can expect a recovery taking as many as two to three months.
The pain and fever that Paul endures has taken a toll on his family, too, with Kelley Paul detailing the pain the senator has just taking a single breath.
"The average person takes 20,000 breaths a day," Kelley Paul wrote in the CNN.com piece . "Since November 3, my husband, Rand Paul, has not taken a single one without pain. He has not had a single night's sleep uninterrupted by long periods of difficult breathing or excruciating coughing."
At one point, she said, she wanted to call 911 because his breathing had become labored and troubled.
The good news, said Haut, is that the long-term prognosis is good for such an injured person.
Meanwhile, the attack is still being played down as a neighbor dispute.
Kelley Paul said she and her husband had not spoken to the neighbor in about 10 years, and that she is mystified as to why media outlets are claiming there was a dispute. Rand Paul has highlighted articles noting Bouchard, a retired anesthesiologist, is an anti-Trump Democrat who has complained about Republican policies on social media.
Bouchard reportedly charged down a small hill on the properties and rammed Rand Paul in the small of his back while Paul was looking in the opposite direction.
Boucher's alleged violent confrontation has roiled conservatives, who note the attack was the third violent assault on Republican members of Congress since President Donald Trump took office.
Paul himself was on a "hit list" compiled by James T. Hodgkinson, the Illinois man who attacked a Republican congressional baseball practice on June 14. Hodgkinson used a high-powered rifle. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was seriously injured in the attack, and is still walking with a cane. Hodgkinson was killed in the attack.
In May, Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off a Tennessee road. Wright was reportedly angry that Kustoff voted to repeal Obamacare a few days earlier.
Bouchard's attorney denied to CNN that politics had anything to do with the attack on Paul.
Paul's Senate office declined to comment on the senator's current health status, except to point to Kelley Paul's op-ed.