By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s doctor confirmed Tuesday that she was hospitalized during a 2015 trip to Colorado but Ivey disputed a statement from the state’s former top law enforcement officer that she had suffered a mini-stroke.
Ivey said she had altitude sickness during the trip and released a letter from her doctor saying he saw no evidence of a mini-stroke when he examined her a day after her discharge and that hospital tests in Colorado were also negative.
The health of the 74-year-old Republican governor has become a periodic issue in the state’s gubernatorial race.
Spencer Collier, who served as the state’s top law enforcement officer at the time, told The Associated Press that the trooper traveling with Ivey reported to his commanding officer that Ivey developed stroke-like symptoms during the trip and had a transient ischemic attack.
“The trooper noticed that she was incoherent and made the decision to transport her to the emergency room,” Collier said. “Initially, I was told when they brought her to the hospital it was stroke-like symptoms. In the following days we were briefed it was a TIA,” Collier said.
TIA is shorthand for transient ischemic attack. According to the American Stroke Association, a transient ischemic attack is a temporary blockage of blood to the brain, caused by a clot or blockage and is sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke or warning stroke.
Collier said policy is for state troopers to report any incidents with the elected officials they protect.
Ivey disputed the account Tuesday and released a letter from her physician, Dr. Brian Elrod. Elrod said he was aware of the hospitalization and examined her a day after her discharge.
“During my examination I saw no evidence of a transient ischemic attack and learned that the extensive work-up done at the Denver hospital, including an MRI, a carotid ultrasound and labs were all negative,” Elrod wrote.
The letter did not say how long she was in the hospital. Elrod said he could not confirm what condition led to the hospitalization, but said he considers Ivey low risk for a cardiovascular event.
Ivey told reporters Tuesday evening that she had “altitude illness.”
“The letter I released today from my doctor clearly confirms what I’ve been saying all along that I’m in good health,” Ivey said. “No step too high for high stepper.”
Ivey suggested the assertion was politically motivated ahead of the election in which she faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
During the 2015 incident, Collier said the trooper also reported that Ivey’s chief of staff, Steve Pelham, had directed him “not to tell anyone, including his chain of command.”
Collier, who said he himself has had a TIA, said he was not attacking Ivey’s health. “I’m not attacking her health. I have health issues. … Don’t take it lightly when you instruct troopers not to tell the truth,” Collier said. Pelham now serves as Ivey’s chief of staff in the governor’s office.
Ivey spokesman Daniel Sparkman disputed the claim that the trooper was told not to tell his superiors.
Collier said he would be willing to take a polygraph to show he is telling the truth. He said the matter was also reported to the division chief over dignitary protection and then-Gov. Robert Bentley. Bentley did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Ivey became governor last year when Bentley resigned after an alleged affair with a staffer.
Collier was one of the first people to publicly accuse Bentley of having a relationship with a staffer after Bentley dismissed him as law enforcement secretary. Recordings later surfaced of Bentley making suggestive remarks to a female aide before he and his wife of 50 years got divorced.
“It may have taken over two years but I think everything I said that day about Governor Bentley pretty much all proved to be pretty darn accurate,” Collier said.