Former Sen. Kay Hagan is back in North Carolina but still recovering from a bout with encephalitis.
Hagan, 63, had been taken to a Washington, D.C., hospital Dec. 8, after she became ill, but no updates had been available on her condition.
A spokesperson for the Hagan family issued a statement Friday afternoon including updates from Hagan’s doctor, William Powers of the UNC School of Medicine, and her husband, Greensboro attorney Chip Hagan.
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, and the type Hagan has is typically caused by a virus, the statement said. The Greensboro News & Record first reported Hagan’s condition.
“While she is not fully responsive, her doctors have not seen anything that precludes her recovery, but recovery will be a long process,” the statement said. “The Hagan family appreciates the outpouring of concern, support, and prayers they have received and thanks everyone in advance for respecting their privacy as Kay continues to recover.”
Powers said doctors don’t yet know how Hagan contracted encephalitis.
“Development of encephalitis from viral infection is a very rare event, occurring in a small percentage of people annually around the world,” Powers said. “The symptoms of acute encephalitis can range from a headache to unresponsiveness, however, even patients with a prolonged period of poor responsiveness early in the disease can slowly recover over a period of months.”
Hagan, a Democrat, served 10 years in the N.C. state Senate and was one of the chamber’s top budget writers.
In 2008, she won a U.S. Senate seat, defeating Elizabeth Dole. Six years later, Hagan was unseated by Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in what was then the nation’s most expensive Senate race.
Tillis, along with the N.C. Republican Party’s Dallas Woodhouse, said in tweets that they’re praying for Hagan’s speedy recovery.
Hagan has a law degree and worked as a vice president in the estates and trust division and the private banking division at N.C. National Bank, a predecessor of Bank of America, in Greensboro.
She was born in Shelby and raised in Lakeland, Fla., where her father was once mayor.
Hagan served as a Greensboro civic leader and first ran for office in 1998 after being recruited by then-Gov. Jim Hunt and others. She was seen as an up-and-comer after serving as Guilford County chairwoman during Hunt’s gubernatorial campaigns in 1992 and 1996.
More recently, Hagan has been working as a consultant for Capitol Hill lobbying and law firm Akin Gump. She splits her time between Washington and North Carolina, firm spokesman Benjamin Harris said.
Chip Hagan said Friday that the family is optimistic.
“We all know how strong Kay is, and we know she’s made stronger by the community she’s got supporting and rooting for her,” he said. “Our family is deeply appreciative of every email, phone call, and letter we’ve received.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi