Posted: Sept. 30, 2006


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Last Saturday U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle was helicoptered to Christiana Hospital in Stanton, a medical emergency for stroke. This Saturday he was on the telephone, a conference call with reporters for his first return to public life.

Castle sounded as though his energy was coming in quick waves, small troughs of weariness in between surges of strength, like the one that had him wisecracking when he was asked what sort of schedule he was keeping -- "I've got two parades today, a couple of debates tonight."

He clearly is talking, and he says he is walking -- several city blocks daily in his Wilmington neighborhood. He says he feels "a little shaky," but the doctors tell him he is fine, although neither he nor his doctors know when he will return to work.

"It's a bit of a physical experience to go through, although I don't really remember any of it," Castle said.

Castle, 67, woke up a week ago at his beach house in Dewey Beach, where he and his wife Jane were staying, and it was evident something was wrong. He said he did not realize what was happening -- "Jane said I was coherent" -- but they called 911.

Castle went first to Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, and then he was airlifted upstate for what turned out to be two small strokes in the thalamus, the part of the brain responsible for sensation, or the ability to feel objects, pressure and pain.

Castle left the hospital Wednesday, but not without a glitch. The battery in the car that Jane Castle was driving was dead, and Jeffrey A. Dayton, the congressman's state director and longtime aide, had to push it out of its parking spot and get it started with jumper cables.

Castle has follow-up medical appointments this week, including one on Tuesday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital & Health System in Baltimore, and he is being treated with aspirin and magnesium, both often taken to reduce the risk of stroke.

After 25 years of statewide office as a Republican lieutenant governor, governor and congressman, Castle finds himself in the odd situation of having a public schedule that is up in the air.

"I'm not keeping any schedule. I had a whole congressional schedule that got knocked off the table, but I don't feel a huge desire to go out and do anything," he said. "There are a series of events I just can't get to. If I can do it, I will. I don't know what I'll be allowed to do. I want to be present as much as anybody might want me to be."

While Castle is sidelined, he says he will send surrogates to campaign events to talk about the record he has compiled in seven terms as the state's lone member in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than anyone else in Delaware history. He is being challenged in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, by Democrat Dennis Spivack and two minor-party candidates.

Castle acknowledged he has thought about when it would be time to call it a political career. "I think your health and your energy are a factor. If I got reports that there was substantial damage, I probably wouldn't run again," he said.

A stroke is a life-changing event. It had Castle saying to the press on a Saturday morning, "I'm happy to be talking to you."