Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman said Thursday that he told "mentally alert" but ailing fellow Supervisor Kenneth Hahn during a hospital visit that Hahn should return to duty as soon as possible even if it means in a wheelchair.
"I encouraged Kenny to (return as soon as possible)," said Edelman, who has been allied with Hahn on many issues. "If he has to be in a wheelchair, that's OK. Some great men have been in wheelchairs and have done some great things." He said Hahn did not respond to the suggestion "and I didn't press him." Edelman said he visited Hahn for 15 minutes Wednesday night at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital and found the 66-year-old stroke victim "mentally alert and very interested in what's going on."
Edelman's visit was the first by anyone outside Hahn's immediate family and close staff since Hahn suffered a stroke on Jan. 11. Edelman's account of Hahn's condition also tends to confirm what Hahn's staff has reported about the ailing supervisor's physical and mental state.
Although Hahn reportedly is mentally alert and able to speak, although in softer tones, he has refused numerous media requests for interviews. This has led to speculation that the stroke may have been more debilitating than at first thought, or that the veteran supervisor, who faces reelection next year, is trying avoid appearing weak in public.
Edelman said, however, that Hahn is not weak.
"I arrived right after (President) Reagan finished his speech; we talked about the speech and the state of the county," said Edelman, referring to Reagan's nationwide address on the Tower Commission report. "He (Hahn) is as sharp as ever in my judgment."
"He does have difficulty with his arm; he was in bed," Edelman reported. "His speech seemed good to me. He was able to articulate his views and how he felt."
Shortly after the stroke, it was reported that Hahn had lost and then regained the use of the facial muscles on his left side. The stroke also affected Hahn's left leg, leaving him unable to walk despite several weeks of rehabilitation, his staff has said.
Edelman and Hahn, both Democrats and liberals, form the minority on the five-member Board of Supervisors. On issues affecting health care, labor and welfare, they often are at odds with the board's conservative majority of Pete Schabarum, Deane Dana and Mike Antonovich.
In Hahn's absence, Edelman has been the lone dissenter on some issues, a point he said he made in his Wednesday night visit to Hahn's hospital room.
"I'm looking forward to him coming back to the board and continuing to play a prominent role in county government," Edelman said. "Hopefully the sooner the better, of course, from my standpoint."
"(Hahn's) got some principles and he's got his interests and his mental capacities, so I'd welcome him back whether he's walking or in a wheelchair."