In 2010, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was experiencing reminiscence loss and psychological fogginess so extreme {that a} good friend grew involved he might need a mind tumor. Mr. Kennedy mentioned he consulted a number of of the nation’s prime neurologists, a lot of whom had both handled or spoken to his uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, earlier than his dying the earlier 12 months of mind most cancers.

A number of docs seen a darkish spot on the youthful Mr. Kennedy’s mind scans and concluded that he had a tumor, he mentioned in a 2012 deposition reviewed by The New York Occasions. Mr. Kennedy was instantly scheduled for a process at Duke College Medical Heart by the identical surgeon who had operated on his uncle, he mentioned.

Whereas packing for the journey, he mentioned, he obtained a name from a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital who had a distinct opinion: Mr. Kennedy, he believed, had a lifeless parasite in his head.

The physician believed that the abnormality seen on his scans “was brought on by a worm that obtained into my mind and ate a portion of it after which died,” Mr. Kennedy mentioned within the deposition.

Now an impartial presidential candidate, the 70-year-old Mr. Kennedy has portrayed his athleticism and relative youth as a bonus over the two oldest people to ever search the White Home: President Biden, 81, and former President Donald J. Trump, 77. Mr. Kennedy has secured a spot on the ballots in Utah, Michigan, Hawaii and, his marketing campaign says, California and Delaware. His intensive efforts to achieve access in more states may put him able to tip the election.

He has gone to lengths to look hale, snowboarding with a professional snowboarder and with an Olympic gold medalist who called him a “ripper” as they raced down the mountain. A digital camera crew was at his side whereas he lifted weights, shirtless, at an outside health club in Venice Seaside.

Mr. Kennedy hit the slopes in Jackson Gap, Wyo., this 12 months with the skilled snowboarder Travis Rice.Credit score…through Fb

Nonetheless, over time, he has confronted severe well being points, some beforehand undisclosed, together with the obvious parasite.

For many years, Mr. Kennedy suffered from atrial fibrillation, a typical heartbeat abnormality that will increase the chance of stroke or coronary heart failure. He has been hospitalized not less than 4 instances for episodes, though in an interview with The Occasions this winter, he mentioned he had not had an incident in additional than a decade and believed the situation had disappeared.

About the identical time he discovered of the parasite, he mentioned, he was additionally identified with mercury poisoning, most certainly from ingesting an excessive amount of fish containing the damaging heavy steel, which may trigger severe neurological points.

“I’ve cognitive issues, clearly,” he mentioned within the 2012 deposition. “I’ve short-term reminiscence loss, and I’ve longer-term reminiscence loss that impacts me.”

Within the interview with The Occasions, he mentioned he had recovered from the reminiscence loss and fogginess and had no aftereffects from the parasite, which he mentioned had not required therapy. Requested final week if any of Mr. Kennedy’s well being points may compromise his health for the presidency, Stefanie Spear, a spokeswoman for the Kennedy marketing campaign, instructed The Occasions, “That could be a hilarious suggestion, given the competitors.”

The marketing campaign declined to offer his medical information to The Occasions. Neither President Biden nor Mr. Trump has launched medical information on this election cycle.

Docs who’ve handled parasitic infections and mercury poisoning mentioned each circumstances can generally completely harm mind operate, however sufferers can also have momentary signs and mount a full restoration.

A few of Mr. Kennedy’s well being points have been revealed within the 2012 deposition, which he gave throughout divorce proceedings from his second spouse, Mary Richardson Kennedy. On the time, Mr. Kennedy was arguing that his incomes energy had been diminished by his cognitive struggles.

Mr. Kennedy offered extra particulars, together with concerning the obvious parasite, within the cellphone interview with The Occasions, carried out when he was on the cusp of getting on his first state poll. His marketing campaign declined to reply follow-up questions.

Within the days after the 2010 name from NewYork-Presbyterian, Mr. Kennedy mentioned within the interview, he underwent a battery of checks. Scans over many weeks confirmed no change within the spot on his mind, he mentioned.

Docs finally concluded that the cyst they noticed on scans contained the stays of a parasite. Mr. Kennedy mentioned that he didn’t know the kind of parasite or the place he might need contracted it, although he suspected it might need been throughout a visit via South Asia.

A number of infectious illness specialists and neurosurgeons mentioned in separate interviews with The Occasions that, based mostly on what Mr. Kennedy described, they believed it was doubtless a pork tapeworm larva. The docs haven’t handled Mr. Kennedy and have been talking typically.

Dr. Clinton White, a professor of infectious illnesses on the College of Texas Medical Department in Galveston, mentioned microscopic tapeworm eggs are sticky and simply transferred from one individual to a different. As soon as hatched, the larvae can journey within the bloodstream, he mentioned, “and find yourself in all types of tissues.”

Although it’s inconceivable to know, he added that it’s unlikely {that a} parasite would eat part of the mind, as Mr. Kennedy described. Fairly, Dr. White mentioned, it survives on vitamins from the physique. In contrast to tapeworm larvae within the intestines, these within the mind stay comparatively small, a couple of third of an inch.

Some tapeworm larvae can dwell in a human mind for years with out inflicting issues. Others can wreak havoc, usually once they begin to die, which causes irritation. The commonest signs are seizures, complications and dizziness.

There are roughly 2,000 hospitalizations for the situation, generally known as neurocysticercosis, every year in the US, in line with the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Scott Gardner, curator of the Manter Laboratory for Parasitology on the College of Nebraska-Lincoln, mentioned that when any worm is in a mind, cells calcify round it. “And also you’re going to mainly have nearly like a tumor that’s there eternally. It’s not going to go anyplace.”

Dr. Gardner mentioned it was attainable a worm would trigger reminiscence loss. Nonetheless, extreme reminiscence loss is extra usually related to one other well being scare Mr. Kennedy mentioned he had on the time: mercury poisoning.

Mr. Kennedy mentioned he was then subsisting on a weight-reduction plan heavy on predatory fish, notably tuna and perch, each recognized to have elevated mercury ranges. Within the interview with The Occasions, he mentioned that he had skilled “extreme mind fog” and had hassle retrieving phrases. Mr. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer who has railed in opposition to the risks of mercury contamination in fish from coal-fired power plants, had his blood examined.

He mentioned the checks confirmed his mercury ranges have been 10 instances what the Environmental Safety Company considers protected.

On the time, Mr. Kennedy additionally was a number of years into his campaign in opposition to thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative utilized in some vaccines. He’s a longtime vaccine skeptic who has falsely linked childhood inoculations to an increase in autism, as well as to other medical conditions.
Within the interview, Mr. Kennedy mentioned he was sure his weight-reduction plan had brought on the poisoning. I liked tuna fish sandwiches. I ate them on a regular basis,” he mentioned.

The Occasions described Mr. Kennedy’s signs to Elsie Sunderland, an environmental chemist at Harvard who has not spoken to Mr. Kennedy and responded typically concerning the situation.

She mentioned the mercury ranges that Mr. Kennedy described have been excessive, however not stunning for somebody consuming that amount and sort of seafood.

Mr. Kennedy mentioned he made modifications after these two well being scares, together with getting extra sleep, touring much less and lowering his fish consumption.

He additionally underwent chelation remedy, a therapy that binds to metals within the physique to allow them to be expelled. It’s typically given to individuals contaminated by metals, equivalent to lead and zinc, in industrial accidents. Dr. Sunderland mentioned that when mercury poisoning is clearly diet-related, she would merely suggest that the individual cease consuming fish. However one other physician who spoke to The Occasions mentioned she would advise chelation remedy for the degrees Mr. Kennedy mentioned he had.

Mr. Kennedy’s coronary heart situation started in faculty, he mentioned, when it began beating out of sync.

In 2001 he was admitted to a hospital in Seattle whereas on the town to present a speech, in line with information experiences. He was handled, and launched the following day. He was hospitalized not less than three extra instances between September 2011 and early 2012, together with as soon as in Los Angeles, he mentioned within the deposition. On that go to, he mentioned, docs used a defibrillator to shock his coronary heart to reset the rhythm.

He mentioned within the deposition that stress, caffeine and an absence of sleep triggered the situation. “It seems like there’s a bag of worms in my chest. I can really feel instantly when it goes out,” he mentioned.

He additionally mentioned within the deposition and the interview that he had contracted hepatitis C via intravenous drug use in his youth. He mentioned he had been handled and had no lingering results from the an infection.

Mr. Kennedy has spoken publicly about one different main well being situation — spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological dysfunction that causes his vocal cords to squeeze too shut collectively and explains his hoarse, generally strained voice.

He first seen it when he was 42 years previous, he mentioned within the deposition. Mr. Kennedy for years made a significant amount of money giving speeches, and that enterprise fell off because the situation worsened, he mentioned.

He instructed an interviewer last year that he had lately undergone a process out there in Japan to implant titanium between his vocal cords to maintain them from involuntarily constricting.

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