State Senate President Pro Tempore Lois Court, D-Denver, announced Monday she will step down due to illness, effective Jan. 16.
According to a statement from Colorado Senate Democrats, she was hospitalized on New Year's Eve and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome , a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the peripheral nerves.
"Due to the severity of the illness, Senator Court has decided to step down, effective January 16, 2020. Although it is a serious diagnosis, 99% of people who are diagnosed recover, with 98% returning to full functionality within several weeks or months," the statement said.
Court served eight years in the House and was elected to the Senate in 2016. She started out as an aide to then-Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.
Guillain-Barré affects about one to two people per 100,000. While it is rare, it can take months or even years for people to recover. Its symptoms include severe back pain, tingling in the hands and feet and even paralysis.
Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said in the statement that Court "is a remarkable woman whose leadership has stood the test of time. Her fierce dedication to the people of Colorado has made her an inspiring legislator and colleague. We are all very grateful for her time as Chair of the Finance Committee and President Pro Tempore of the Senate — positions I always felt confident in knowing they were led by a person with such experience and dedication. We hold Senator Court in our thoughts during this difficult time and send her much healing.”
“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people of Colorado and I am deeply saddened that this chapter of my life is at a close," Court said in the same statement. "But I am excited by the work my colleagues are undertaking and will continue to cheer them on and be an active citizen of Senate District 31."
Gov. Jared Polis added his statement of support. “Lois Court has been a tireless champion for Coloradans at the capitol. From the House to the Senate, she fought for fiscal reform and stood up for her constituents — no one has a clearer compass on the issues she cares about. Sen. Court’s grit and effectiveness as a legislator will be missed. I wish Sen. Court a speedy and complete recovery as she and her family overcome this challenge.”
Court had already announced she would not seek re-election in November. Three candidates — two Democrats and one Republican — have already filed for that race, including Democratic Rep. Chris Hansen, a member of the Joint Budget Committee.
Hansen said Monday his main concern is with his friend and colleague's health.
"I'm grateful for her long service to the people of Denver for three decades," he said. "I hope I can fill her big shoes. She's long been a champion of fiscal issues and solving some of the difficult entanglements. That's one of the reasons I wanted to be on the JBC."
A Senate District 31 committee will convene and appoint Court's replacement in the coming weeks. Hansen is hoping to be the pick, which would create a vacancy in his House District 6 seat.
Andrew Hudson, founder of Andrew Hudson's Job List and a former spokesman for Mayor Wellington Webb, has a brother who is currently recovering from Guillain-Barré. He said his brother, who lives in Germany, woke up on Christmas Eve a year ago with tingling in his legs. It soon turned into paralysis and he was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed immediately with GBS.
Hudson said the illness has no known cause. If someone has the flu, for example, GBS causes the immune system to attack the nervous system instead of the flu virus. There's no known cure; the illness just has to run its course.
His brother has been in intensive rehab for the past nine months but just recently was allowed to go home, Hudson said Monday. He still does not have full use of his hands or legs, Hudson said.
Todd Hartman, a former spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources who now works for Denver Water, recounted his 2007 experience with GBS. His case, fortunately, was a mild one, he said Monday. It started with problems walking and lower leg paralysis. Finally, he went to an urgent care facility, where he was told to go to the emergency room. He said he spent about a week in the hospital and was given medications that seemed to help.
"My best wishes go to Sen. Court" as she fights this, he said.