- Ridge, 75, suffered stroke on Wednesday at home in suburban Washington, D.C.
- Spokesman said Wednesday Ridge is in critical but stable condition
- His wife, Michele, offered update on Thursday; his brother, David, thanked well-wishers
Former Gov. Tom Ridge faces “a long road ahead” as he recovers from a stroke he suffered Wednesday while at his house in suburban Washington, D.C., his wife, Michele, said in a statement on Thursday.
She also said the family is hoping for “a full recovery.”
Her remarks are the latest information on Tom Ridge, 75, a longtime Erie resident and the nation’s first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Tom Ridge’s spokesman on Thursday said Ridge’s status remains remains critical but stable at a hospital in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Tom suffered a stroke early on Wednesday,” Michele Ridge said in her statement. “His excellent medical team continues to monitor and evaluate his status.
“We are hopeful for a full recovery while recognizing he will have a long road ahead, no doubt. But we take comfort and strength from knowing what a determined fighter Tom is and that he has come back strong from health challenges in the past.
“Our family has been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of all those who have reached out – from across the country and around the world – to send prayers, share encouraging words and offer assistance. It is comforting and means a great deal to all of us. Please keep your prayers coming.
“I’d like to thank the emergency medical services team who took such good care of Tom getting him to the hospital and to the nurses, doctors and staff who are working with compassion and care to help Tom in the early stages of his recovery.”
Blood clot blamed
A blood clot caused Tom Ridge’s stroke, according to a statement his spokesman, Steve Aaron, issued late Wednesday afternoon. It was the first official statement on Ridge’s health. Michele Ridge’s was the second.
“Tom Ridge, the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, was transferred by ambulance to a hospital in the Washington, D.C. area this morning after having suffered a stroke at his residence in Bethesda, MD,” according to the statement issued Wednesday.
“Gov. Ridge, 75, was conscious when he arrived at the emergency department and later underwent a successful procedure to remove a blood clot. He remains in critical but stable condition.
“The family requests your prayers for a full recovery. Further updates will be provided as events warrant.”
Previous health scare
This is not Ridge’s first brush with a serious health concern.
In November 2017, Ridge was in Austin, Texas, attending the Republican Governors Association conference, when he called for help at his hotel room.
At that time, Ridge underwent a cardiac catheterization at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.
In a 2018 interview with the Erie Times-News, Ridge said that he had suffered a massive heart attack and was in a coma for five days.
2018 report:Ridge back to work after heart attack
“My wife, Michele, told me she had the priest come in and give me last rites,” Ridge said at the time.
Ridge said in 2018 that he had lost 15 pounds, made some modest lifestyle changes and was feeling “pretty much back to where I was.”
“You wake up and you realize you’ve been given the gift of a second chance, so you take advantage of it,” Ridge said.
David Ridge welcomes support
Ridge’s brother, David Ridge, an Erie County judge, said the outpouring of support that the Ridge family has received this week was reminiscent of the good wishes the family received during Tom Ridge’s hospitalization four years ago. David Ridge said on Thursday that his brother remained in stable condition.
“On behalf of my entire family, I want to express our sincere gratitude for the overwhelming support we have received over the last 24 hours,” David Ridge told the Erie Times-News. “I believe it helped in 2017, and I believe it is going to help this time.”
Tom Ridge was the nation’s first homeland security secretary, serving under President George W. Bush until February 2005. He left the governorship after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to join the Bush administration.
He managed the far-flung department, composed of 22 agencies and about 180,000 employees by the time he left.
Ridge scheduled to be in Erie in Nov.
Since leaving government, Ridge has headed Ridge Global, a firm that advises on cybersecurity, international security and risk management.
Ridge, for whom the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Science at Mercyhurst University is named, was the keynote speaker in June 2019 at the inaugural Intelligence Community Forum, hosted by Mercyhurst.
More recently, Ridge has been in the news as one of a group of 150 Republicans taking part in “A Call for American Renewal.” The group is threatening to create a new political party if the GOP continues to align with former President Donald Trump.
A U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Ridge was an assistant district attorney in Erie County and a six-term congressman before he was elected governor in 1994.
He and his wife have homes in Erie and Bethesda, Maryland, and have two grown children.
Erie native Steve Scully, who is political editor of C-SPAN and chairman of the Jefferson Educational Society’s Global Summit, emailed the Erie Times-News Thursday, expressing both the hope and expectation that Ridge will recover.
Scully wrote: “The Jefferson Educational Society is still planning on Gov. Ridge introducing President Bush to an Erie Audience on Tuesday, Nov. 9th. As you know, the two are close, close friends…… a tribute to Erie and Tom Ridge that he will be coming in November.”
Scully concluded: “We all cannot wait for Tom’s full 100 percent recovery.”