Less than a week after having urgent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, Montana Sen. Max Baucus says he now has a case of "cabin fever."
In a phone interview on Thursday from his townhouse in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Baucus said he's struggling to follow doctor's orders to not exert himself.
"I want to start doing things," Baucus said. "It takes effort to rest."
The 62-year-old senator's restlessness has not dampened his spirits. In the interview, he joked and laughed about the two holes that were drilled in his head to relieve the pressure on his brain, which was the result of a subdural hematoma.
He joked that some people probably thought he had holes in his head before the surgery.
When asked if it would have any lasting impact on his political career, the Democrat responded: "I frankly think that this is a little medical blip."
The subdural hematoma - bleeding between the brain and its outer surface or dura - likely was caused by a head injury that Baucus suffered when he tripped and hit his head on a rock during a 50-mile running race on Nov. 22.
Baucus said that he is not sure if he will be able to attend President Bush's State of the Union speech Jan. 20.
He did say that his wife, Wanda, and his doctors have been working to be sure that he isn't too active.
"The docs and Wanda have made it clear I have to rest," Baucus said. "It makes sense to rest so I don't have a setback."
The surgery has put a crimp in his training for the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in Squaw Valley, Calif. - but Baucus would not rule out participating in the race, scheduled for June 26 and 27.
"We'll see," he said. "It's still a possibility. I'd like to run in it. The doctors have said I shouldn't run for at least a month. In the next week I'll start riding on the stationary bike and we'll see where it goes from there."
Baucus checked himself into the hospital after experiencing dizziness, problems with motor skills and nausea while on a Jan. 8 flight to Phoenix. He was scheduled to give a speech to the Edison Electric Institute, an organization that represents investor-owned electric utilities, and hold a related fund-raiser.
"When I was changing clothes in the restroom I noticed the coordination in my left hand was no good," Baucus said, adding that he had been dizzy, drowsy and having problems with coordination for several days before the flight to Phoenix. On Jan. 7, he said, he fell while running on a treadmill.
"I thought maybe I was tired, so I got a few nights of good sleep," Baucus said. "It was intermittent."
In an interview last week, Deaconess Billings Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Stuart Goodman noted that the symptoms of hematoma ebb and flow; the bleeding, he said, usually stops when someone with a subdural hematoma is just walking around. But sneezes, coughs and other actions where the head moves quickly cause bleeding from the veins.
Baucus, who is the top Democrat on the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over federal health-care programs, said he "took advantage" of his time in the hospital.
"The third day I turned to the head doc and said, 'I'd like to meet with all of you. I could learn a lot from you,' " Baucus said. "It just occurred to me because they seemed so competent."
Baucus was released from the hospital before the meeting could take place, but he said he hopes to return to Phoenix and meet with the doctors.