Hillary leaves the hospital on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Washington, Jan. 5: When Hillary Clinton fractured her right elbow after slipping in a state department garage in June 2009, she returned to work in just a few days.
Her arm in a sling, she juggled speeches and a trip to India and Thailand with physical therapy, rebuilding a joint held together with wire and pins.
It was vivid evidence of the 65-year-old’s stamina and work ethic: as a First Lady, senator, presidential candidate and, for the past four years, the most widely travelled secretary of state ever.
But after a fall at home in December that caused a concussion, and a subsequent diagnosis of a blood clot in her head, it has taken much longer for Hillary to bounce back.
She was released from a New York hospital on Wednesday. On Thursday, she told colleagues she hoped to be in the office next week.
Her health scare, though, has reinforced the concerns of friends and colleagues that the years of punishing work and travel have taken a heavy toll.
Over the past four years, she was on the road for 401 days and spent the equivalent of 87 full days on a plane, according to the state department’s website.
In a 48-hour marathon in 2009, she flew from talks with Palestinian leaders in Abu Dhabi to a midnight meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, then boarded a plane for Morocco, staying up all night to work on other issues, before going straight to a meeting of Arab leaders the next morning.
“While we always thought of her as invincible and indestructible,” said Lissa Muscatine, a former speechwriter who has travelled with Hillary, “we all just really hoped there would be a point where she could stop going at that breakneck pace.”
“So many people who know her have urged me to tell her not to work so hard,” said Melanne S. Verveer, who was Hillary’s chief of staff when she was First Lady and is now the state department’s ambassador at large for women’s issues. “Well, that’s not easy to do when you’re Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t spare herself.”
It is not just a matter of duty, Verveer said. Hillary genuinely relishes the work, pursuing a brand of personal diplomacy that, she argues, requires her to travel to more places than her predecessors.
While there is no medical evidence that Hillary’s clot was caused by her Herculean work habits, her cascade of recent health problems, beginning with a stomach virus, has prompted those who know her best to say that she desperately needs a long rest.
Some even wonder whether this setback will — or should — temper the feverish speculation that she will make another run for the White House in 2016. “I am amazed at the number of women who come up to me and tell me she must run for President,” said Ellen Chesler, a New York author and a friend of Hillary. “But perhaps this episode will alter things a bit.”
For now, aides say, Hillary’s focus is on wrapping up her work at the state department. She would like to take part in a town hall-style meeting, thank her staff and sit for some interviews.
But first she has to get clearance from her doctors, who are watching her to make sure that the blood thinners they have prescribed for her clot are working.
Speaking to the meeting of a foreign policy advisory board from her home on Thursday, Hillary said she was crossing her fingers and encouraging her doctors to let her return next week.
“I’m trying to be a compliant patient,” she said. “But that does require a certain level of patience, which I’ve had to cultivate over the last three-and-a-half weeks.”
While convalescing, Hillary has spoken with President Obama and has held a 30-minute call with senator John Kerry, whom Obama nominated as her successor.
Hillary also plans to testify, while still in office, about the deadly attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Because the Senate will be in recess until January 21, and it must then confirm Kerry, she is expected to stay on as secretary of state until the end of the month.