Sen. Tim Johnson's Second Chance at Life and Work
Bob Woodruff Follows the Remarkable Recovery and Return of the South Dakota Senator
Senator Tim Johnson, who returned to South Dakota today for the first time since suffering a brain hemorrhage last December, says he plans to run for re-election in 2008. "I expect to run and to win," he said. (Office of Senator Tim Johnson)
By DAN MORRIS and JAIME HENNESSEYAug. 28, 2007
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., addressed a crowd today in Sioux Falls, S.D., "Wow. You guys are a sight for sore eyes. It's good to be home."
It's been a long road home for the senator in the eight months since the brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him in December. In that time he's had to learn to walk again and to cope with speech slowed by aphasia.
"I am back and I promise you all that I will work harder than ever for you and for our state," Johnson said.
One thing Johnson, who will return to the Senate on Sept. 5, hasn't lost is his sense of humor.
"I will promise you that when my speech is back to normal, I will not act like a typical politician and overuse the gift."
"Of course, I believe I have an unfair edge over most of my colleagues right now — my mind works faster than my mouth does," he said. "I'm hoping that folks will focus more on my work than how quickly I walk these days."
Johnson has always been a straightforward, moderate Democrat from a mostly Republican state. He is a man so respected by his colleagues that they made him chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. He is also the only senator with a son who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When Johnson fell ill with what appeared to be a stroke, the outpouring of concern from both sides of the aisle was heartfelt and genuine.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters, "This is a time to pray for Tim Johnson's health, and I'll leave it to others to start doing political calculations."
Dec. 13, 2006
Shortly before noon on Dec. 13, 2006, Johnson was conducting a telephone news conference when his words began to falter.
"I looked at him and kind of gave him a sign like wrap it up. And he said, 'Frustrating.' He said frustrating, I think two times," Johnson's communications director Julianne Fisher said. "And I turned and looked at his scheduler and pulled her aside and said, 'I think he's having a stroke.' … By 12:15 he was probably in the ambulance and gone."
Johnson only recalls part of that day.
"I remember that time, and all the way to the emergency room— ambulance ride, the emergency room. And then I become vaguer. I don't remember anymore," he said.
Johnson was unaware that the scene outside George Washington Hospital quickly became a media circus, much to the dismay of his worried family and staff inside.