The daily beast
The surgeon who saved Biden's life recalls fateful predictions
Dr. Neal Kassell was Sen at the door to the operating room. Joe Biden was retracted for a second aneurysm operation in May 1988. Biden reached down from the stretcher and grabbed the neurosurgeon's arm. "He looked me in the eye and said, 'Doc, do a good job because one day I'm going to be president," Kassell told The Daily Beast on Saturday after his previous patient's prediction came true. Biden drove the stretcher into the operating room of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Kassell followed once Biden was anesthetized for his second microsurgical craniotomy. The first surgery was in February after a scan found two aneurysms at the base of Biden's brain, the larger on the right, the smaller on the left. Kassell and another neurosurgeon, Dr. Eugene George, decided to start with the bigger one. It could burst at any moment, with potentially fatal consequences. Biden had retired from the race for the Democratic nomination for president in 1987 five months earlier. His chances of surviving this first operation and having a future at all were estimated at only 50-50. The first operation began with an operating team cutting a hole in Biden's skull and removing the bone plug, as if it were "the top of a cookie jar," as Kassell described below. Kassell then used a microscope to insert a probe between the brain and the skull. He located the balloon artery and attached a spring clip when blood suddenly obscured his view through the microscope. The aneurysm had ruptured and Biden might have died right there on the table had the blood rushed to his brain. Instead, it went the other way and Kassell was able to clean the lens and finish attaching the clip before it was damaged. In the recovery room, Biden could wiggle his fingers and toes and use a wall clock to calculate that the operation had taken nine hours. He would later write that he was close enough to dying to realize that "a single moment of failure – even one as public and wounded as the end of my presidential campaign – could not determine my epitaph." What do you know do we actually talk about our aging health of the POTUS candidates? At the time of the second operation three months later, Biden was again ready to turn fate into fate. The moment came when he looked Kassell in the eye and made the prediction that some might have been at least partly joking. Biden ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008, dropped out – and became Barack Obama's Vice President in 2009.I ran again for President in 2016 if he hadn't been upset again by the death of son Beau Biden of brain cancer at Walter Reed the year before. Joe instead focused on starting the White House Cancer Moonshot Initiative, and Kassell agreed to serve on the Blue Ribbon Panel. Hillary Clinton ran for president, received the nomination, and lost to Donald Trump. When the pandemic hit, Kassell was one of thousands of doctors who were deeply offended and alarmed by Trump's anti-science approach. Trump only became more aggressively ignorant when nearly a quarter of a million Americans died from COVID-19. "Inconceivable," Kassell told The Daily Beast. Thanks in part to Kassell, Biden was about to run another presidential campaign. He was quoting science and wearing a mask and trying to maintain social distance when he won the Democratic nomination. Donald Trump Jr. and his husband cited Biden's previous brain surgeries as evidence that he wasn't up to the job. Kassell replied that he had seen Biden's brain and it was all right; The clips that were still in his brain made it less likely that these arteries would burst. Meanwhile, Trump learned nothing after catching COVID-19 and having a brief stint of his own with Walter Reed. He remained indifferent to the ever-increasing number of unhappy souls who did not recover as he did. Announcing the pandemic was as good as over, he said, "We're rounding a turnaround," although the county saw record increases in some cases. But such a depressing number of Americans still supported him that the early results on election day increased the possibility that he would get another term before Biden advanced. On Saturday, four days after an election that was initially too short, several TV channels declared Biden the winner. Trump had proven unable to dismiss Biden votes as easily as he had dismissed COVID-19 cases. Those of us who feared Trump's second term hailed what felt like liberation, like his favorite poet, Seamus Heaney, described in verse for a Northern Irish theater company in 1990. "History says, no hope" > On this side of the grave. >> But then, once in a lifetime >> The longed-for tidal wave >> of justice can rise. >> And hope and history rhyme. “The word that justice had actually risen to connect hope with history Kassell on Saturday at home. His daughter Nicole Kassell, an Emmy-winning film director for HBO's Watchmen, sent her father a video of the impromptu celebrations near their Harlem home. Cars honk their horns. People cheered and danced in the streets. "Pandemonium," said the doctor in an approving tone. Kassell told The Daily Beast what Biden had said to him 32 years ago that day when he was retracted for the second brain surgery. The Daily Beast noted that the successful efforts of Kassell and his surgical team in treating the two aneurysms had kept Biden alive. And that now means we'll have a new president who will actually deal with the pandemic. Kassell responded with a line from the Bible: "Save a life, you save the world." Read more at The Daily Beast Inbox Every Day. Sign up now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.