PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A day after announcing that Governor Kristi Noem recently underwent back surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, her office is mostly silent on what led to the surgery, and how the Governor is now doing.

KELOLAND reached out to Noem’s office this morning and was told the request asking for details on the surgery, the injury that led to it, and what the protocol was during the procedure with regards to who was in charge of the state, was being forwarded on to the governor.

Just over half an hour later, we received the following response:

1. The Governor was always in power.

2. I would refer you to the press and video regarding the Governor’s explanation on the surgery

Statement from Tony Mangan, Noem’s communications director

The first portion of the answer was in response to the question of who was in charge while Noem was in surgery.

Under Article 5, Section 6 of the state constitution, “when the Governor is unable to serve by reason of continuous absence from the state, or other temporary disability, the executive power shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor for the residue of the term or until the disability is removed.”

The transition of executive power is one that is laid out in both the U.S. and South Dakota constitutions, though in both cases, what requires a transfer may be up for interpretation.

Many associate surgery with anesthesia, and being under anesthesia would likely constitute a ‘temporary disability’, as laid out under the South Dakota constitution.

We have actually seen this scenario play out recently on the national stage. On Nov. 19, 2021, President Biden underwent anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy. During the period that he was incapacitated, power was transferred to Vice President Kamala Harris, who technically became the nation’s first official female president.

This exact situation also occurred in 2002, and in 2007, when then President George W. Bush underwent anesthesia for colonoscopies.

If Noem were under anesthesia and did not transfer power, it could come down to an interpretation of the phrase “temporary disability” in the state constitution, which is not an exact copy of the federal constitution.

There is of course another possibility, which is that the governor may not have been under anesthesia at all.

Such a scenario also played out on the national stage in the not so distant past when in November 2019, according to a book by ex-White House aide Stephanie Grisham, then President Donald Trump refused anesthesia during a secret colonoscopy. According to Grisham, the president opted to forego anesthesia so that Vice President Mike Pence would not have temporary control, and hid the procedure from the public for fear of being made fun of by TV comedians.

Such a scenario also played out on the national stage in the not so distant past when in November 2019, according to a book by ex-White House aide Stephanie Grisham, then President Donald Trump refused anesthesia during a secret colonoscopy. According to Grisham, the president opted to forego anesthesia so that Vice President Mike Pence would not have temporary control, and hid the procedure from the public for fear of being made fun of by TV comedians.

If Noem did not undergo anesthesia for her spinal surgery, it is unlikely that it was due to an unwillingness to hand power to Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden.

We do not know the exact nature of the surgery Noem underwent, only that she was treated by Dr. Mohamad Bydon, a neurosurgeon, who was quoted in the state’s release saying “Governor Noem developed an acute condition impacting her lumbar spine.

It is entirely possible to do some spinal surgeries on patients who are awake, and the University of California, San Francisco notes that it keeping patients awake can aid in decreasing recovery time. Such procedures, utilizing spinal anesthesia rather than general anesthesia, are offered by the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Bydon has spoken about them in the past.

KELOLAND News followed up with Noem’s office, asking for details regarding whether or not she underwent anesthesia, the date and cause of her injury, as well as for a general update on how she is feeling at this point. We have not received an answer.

A transcript of the video we were referred to by Noem’s office is posted below, along with a link to the video on social media.

Hi, everybody, I’m Governor Kristi Noem and I wanted to give you a quick update on a few things. Several weeks ago, about two months ago, I sustained an injury to my back. And I’ve been working with excellent doctors here in South Dakota over those weeks to try to alleviate the situation. Unfortunately, this week, I ended up having surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The person who performed that surgery was a neurosurgeon who specializes in spine injuries and it was a complete success. I’m very grateful for all of their expertise and help and just arrived back home here in Pierre. But I did want to let you all know that I’m going to be very limited in what I’ll be able to do for the next several months, I won’t be able to stand for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. And I won’t be able to get out and about South Dakota, like I love to do so much. And you know that about me that I’m very hands-on and will miss being able to do my normal activities. But I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate all your support and your prayers, that I’m still working hard here in Pierre every day and will continue campaigning. I’ll do a lot of video updates and a lot of chats with you this way as well. But my ability to get around the state is going to be pretty challenged for the next several months. But thank you so much for all you guys have done to reach out and we’re on the road to recovery. I’ll be 100% perfect soon. But just stay in touch and we’ll keep you updated. You have a wonderful day. And so, God bless each of you.

Transcript of Noem’s video address