It started with a piercing pain in Jerome Horton’s lower back. Then trouble breathing. A tingling in his left arm that spread toward his chest, followed by discomfort in his inner thigh.
The frightening episode hit the Board of Equalization chairman just after he called the five-member panel’s two-day monthly meeting to order on Wednesday. He stopped the proceeding for “a short break to try to get control,” he said in a Friday telephone interview.
Alarmed staff called paramedics, who whisked the 58-year-old former assemblyman to Mercy General Hospital around 10:15 a.m.
Over the next 13 hours, doctors ran a battery of tests. Horton’s personal and family health history gave cause for concern. He has high blood pressure and high cholesterol issues, he said. His dad died from a heart attack at 63. His mother succumbed to breast cancer at 54.
Still, Horton kept his sense of humor. At one point, doctors administered drug that “made my body think I was running. I asked if it would help me lose weight,” he said, chuckling. “They said, ‘no.’”
The board, which oversees state collection of business and excise taxes and various fees, reconvened Thursday. Horton returned, joking with colleagues, “I wouldn’t want you guys to have to adjourn in memory of me.”
On Friday, Horton praised the hospital team that cared for him and thanked those who sent well wishes.
“I got calls from Germany and Arkansas,” he said, “and just about everybody in the Legislature, I think. It was an enriching experience to see how many people cared.”