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Bernie Sanders Undergoes Unexpected Heart Surgery, Cancels Appearances


Vermont senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has undergone an unexpected heart procedure after experiencing what his campaign has described as chest discomfort. They've announced a cancellation of appearances and events until further notice. And let's bring in NPR's Asma Khalid to talk about this. Asma, what is the campaign saying about Bernie Sanders right now?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, right now, the campaign is saying that he's conversing, he's in good spirits but that he'll be resting up over the next few days. Essentially, what happened is that during a campaign event yesterday evening, Sanders experienced some chest discomfort. He went in for a medical evaluation and testing, and there about - if it was found that he had a blockage in one artery and two stents that were inserted into his heart.

GREENE: So whatever procedure had to be done, it sounds like it's taken place and he's resting and doing OK at this point.

KHALID: That's right, at this point. And they have said that they're canceling all events and appearances, though, until further notice. He was supposed to be in Nevada today, where a number of presidential candidates are for a gun safety forum. And thereafter, he was also planning to be at the SEIU forum in Southern California. No word that - I mean, as of now, he's not attending either one of those. I mean, the bigger questions, though, are at what point he will return to the campaign trail because there is a debate coming up in about a week and a half.

GREENE: How has his health been in general, Asma?

KHALID: Yeah. So you know, in 2016 when he ran for president, at that time, he released a letter from his longtime doctor, a doctor who'd seen him for a number of years. And the consensus then was that he was in overall good health. He had no history of heart disease. But, you know, Sanders now is 78 years old. He is the oldest of any candidate on either side of the aisle who's seeking the nomination.

GREENE: And just remind us where things stand in the Democratic race right now and where Bernie Sanders has been running.

KHALID: Yeah, David, so this, you know, unexpected announcement comes actually on the heels of what I would say is a pretty successful moment for Sanders. You know, I do think that in the last few weeks there was a narrative about, you know, sort of questions of his durability. There had been stories of some campaign shakeups, as well as some indication that his poll numbers were declining. But then we saw fundraising numbers come out, and Bernie Sanders had a really good third quarter. His campaign says that they raised over $25 million. And to date, that's more than any Democratic candidate has raised in any quarter so far. You know, we don't have all the fundraising numbers for all the candidates so far, but it was a good haul. And they also released news of a big ad buy in Iowa. So at this particular moment, David, you know, it comes on the heels of a moment where Sanders seemed to be turning the corner and showing his durability in this really crowded presidential field.

GREENE: NPR's Asma Khalid. Thanks a lot, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.