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Aamer Madhani discusses how Bernie Sanders’ health scare brings questions about age to the forefront, not just for Bernie.
USA TODAY

News that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive icon, would be endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders for president came as he took the stage alongside his 2020 rivals and showed he was still in the game after a health scare.

But Sanders got the news from the New York representative herself as he was still recovering in the hospital from a heart attack earlier this month, according to a new report.

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told Politico he answered the phone that day and passed it over to Sanders, who was in his hospital bed. 

“Think about the courage of this person who says, ‘You know, I know what you just went through but I have so much trust and confidence in you that you are the one who will fight the fight that I believe in. I’m with you,’ ” Shakir said.

Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, another freshman Democrat in Congress who announced her support of Sanders Tuesday night, also told the senator about her decision after his heart attack, according to Politico. 

Sanders said during Tuesday’s debate that a “special guest” would be joining him at a rally this weekend, and it was later confirmed the guest would be Ocasio-Cortez and that she would make her endorsement then.

In response to a question about his heart attack and recovery at the debate, the 78-year-old said, “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great.” 

Sanders had canceled several campaign events after his surgery. He released a video in which he said being in a Las Vegas hospital “made me feel even more strongly the need for us to continue our efforts to end this dysfunctional and cruel health care system.”

‘I’m feeling great': Bernie Sanders reassured voters of his health following heart attack

He also said in an NBC interview, “We’re going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign, I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings.”

Sanders is currently trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, according to a rolling average of national polls by RealClearPolitics. The three frontrunners are the oldest Democrats in the race. President Donald Trump is 73 years old.

Candidates’ ages: 4 decades separate 2020’s presidential candidates. Here’s what that looks like.

Contributing: Nicholas Wu, Courtney Subramanian, Rebecca Morin