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Released from hospital, Fiorina prepares to hit the trail again

The GOP Senate nominee was held overnight due to a surgery-related infection. Barbara Boxer wished her well at a campaign stop in West Hollywood, where the senator spoke of her support for same-sex marriage.

October 28, 2010|By Maeve Reston and Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina will head back out on the campaign trail Thursday after a brief overnight stay at a Los Angeles-area hospital where she was treated for an infection related to a surgery earlier this year, her aides said.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2009 and pronounced cancer-free last fall after chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy, was admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning. She was forced to suspend her campaign schedule a week before she faces Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer at the polls.

Although Fiorina's aides did not specify what kind of infection afflicted the candidate, they said it was related to reconstructive surgery that she completed this summer. She was released Wednesday afternoon after doctors treated her with antibiotics and observed her overnight.

"Carly is grateful for the outpouring of well wishes and prayers from so many Californians," her chief of staff, Deborah Bowker, said in a statement, adding that Fiorina is "excited to get back on the campaign trail."

Fiorina has spoken openly about her experience with the disease, particularly at women-focused events, and has joked about how her hair, which was closely cropped at the beginning of the campaign, has become a "daily adventure" as it has grown out. Earlier in the campaign, she often ended her speeches by saying that after surviving breast cancer and seeing herself bald in the mirror: "Barbara Boxer doesn't scare me a bit."

Infections after reconstructive surgery are rare but not unheard of, experts said, but the risk depends on the cancer treatment as well as the type of reconstructive surgery a patient received.

Radiation treatments can raise a patient's probability of infection, doctors said. Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said people with irradiated tissue have a slightly higher risk for two to three years after surgery.

The fact that Fiorina was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday and released Wednesday afternoon was a good sign, several surgeons agreed. Such infections are commonly treated with an antibiotic administered intravenously, and the patient is sent home a day or two later with instructions to take an oral antibiotic for several days.

Asked whether there would be lasting effects, Haeck said that "in no way would this make her less competent to carry on duties as a senator."

Over the day and a half that Fiorina was hospitalized, the two Senate campaigns continued to bombard each other over the airwaves. But Boxer adopted a gentler tone in her appearance Tuesday night with First Lady Michelle Obama and her Wednesday event in West Hollywood, where she mentioned Fiorina by name only when offering her well wishes.

Speaking to dozens of supporters at a phone-banking operation in Plummer Park, Boxer emphasized her support for same-sex marriage and noted that she was one of just 14 senators to vote against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as being between a man and woman.

"The important thing that you want to make sure of when you send someone to the Senate is that they're not afraid to stand alone sometimes, or with a few," Boxer said. "And it gets lonely, but I know that people are watching and they are saying, 'OK, she had the courage of her convictions to do that.' "

She also reminded her supporters of her advocacy for the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy," which she said "is on its way out" because of a recent court ruling, "but you want to have me there to make sure."

While Fiorina does not support same-sex marriage, her spokeswoman Andrea Saul noted that she "very much supports the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' and looks forward to the policy's pending review by the military's top officials."

"If Barbara Boxer is a lone voice on issues it's because no one wants to work with her to pass job-killing policies. Barbara Boxer is out of the mainstream on the issues most important to voters — job creation and economic growth," Saul said.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

amina.khan@latimes.com

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