WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is "on his way to a full and swift recovery" after being taken from the U.S. Capitol Wednesday evening on a stretcher, his chief of staff said.
The 64-year-old freshman congressman and former Jacksonville sheriff, elected to the 4th Congressional District last fall, collapsed just after 6 p.m. while members of the House of Representatives were voting.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Rutherford's chief of staff, Kelly Simpson, said he is
"...recuperating at a local hospital on his way to a full and swift recovery. On Wednesday evening, Congressman Rutherford experienced significant discomfort while just outside the House Chamber. Mr. Rutherford received medical attention and treatment in the Capitol before being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. After ruling out more serious concerns, testing showed that he is experiencing an acute digestive flare up that is generating the discomfort. He did not suffer a heart attack as widely reported. In fact, doctors are happy to report that all of his vitals look great. While he will briefly remain in the hospital to treat the inflammation, the Congressman's care providers expect that he will be back to full strength in little time. John and his family are so grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support from friends and neighbors in Northeast Florida and colleagues here in Washington, and they salute the physicians, EMTs, and staff for their exceptional response."
According to multiple reports, Rutherford needed medical attention and paramedics were seen working on him in the Republican cloakroom.
Rep. Neal Dunn from Florida, a surgeon who was also just elected to the House, rushed to try and help, News4Jax was told.
"He did not suffer a heart attack," Simpson said.
On Friday, Simpson said Rutherford's recovery continued to go very well and that he remained at a local hospital for rest, treatment and observation.
"Doctors treating Mr. Rutherford believe that the acute digestive flare up that generated the discomfort he experienced was caused by a serious allergic reaction to an antibiotic that he was taking for a cold," Simpson said in a released statement Friday. "Though obviously very painful, it is not medically severe, nor does it carry long-term health implications, which is excellent news."
Simpson said the doctors were continuing to treat his inflammation and expected Rutherford to be released early next week as the inflammation continues to subside.
"John and his family remain so grateful for all the goodwill and support from friends, neighbors and colleagues this week," Simpson said.
Fellow U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat elected to District 5, said Rutherford was taken to George Washington University Hospital. Lawson said he has already developed a mutual respect with his Republican counterpart and he's praying for him.
"During the past few weeks, we have been discussing issues we can work together on for the benefit of our community in Jacksonville. He is a great person to work with. I am a little stunned tonight but I will continue to pray for him for recovery. And whenever I can I will go to the hospital to see him I will be on my way," Lawson said.
Current Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Rutherford gave everyone quite a scare.
"I can tell you, having worked with him for many, many years, my advice to him would be to take a few minutes and eat a meal every now and then and quit trying to work so hard every single day," Williams said. "We were obviously all praying for him last night. And it worked out well. He's in good health and good shape, looking forward to him getting back and getting back to work."
Many took to social media to express well wishes for Rutherford.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Congressman John Rutherford and his family. We are praying for a quick recovery," tweeted the Duval County GOP.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also tweeted, "Prayers for my friend John Rutherford."
The 64-year-old Republican worked in law enforcement for 41 years and served as sheriff in Jacksonville, Florida, before defeating Democrat David Bruderly in November to win the District 4 seat of retiring Republican Rep. Ander Crenshaw.
Just two days ago, Rutherford led the bipartisan charge of other freshmen representatives in calling for President Barack Obama to "light the White House blue" in honor of law enforcement across the country. He wanted that done on Monday's National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.