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Teresa Heinz Kerry is reported critically ill

Her condition is called stable; was flown from Nantucket to MGH

Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry after a 2004 speech he delivered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

DINA RUDICK/GLOBE STAFF/FILE 2004

Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry after a 2004 speech he delivered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Teresa Heinz Kerry, a leading philanthropist and wife of US Secretary of State John F. Kerry, was in critical but stable condition Sunday after being flown to Massachusetts General Hospital from Nantucket, where she had been rushed to the hospital for an undisclosed ailment, according to aides to the secretary.

Heinz Kerry, 74, was stricken while at the family’s vacation home, according to State Department spokesman Glen Johnson.

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“Late Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry was taken by ambulance to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, accompanied by her husband,” Johnson said in a prepared statement. “Once doctors had stabilized her condition, she was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, again accompanied by the Secretary.”

Johnson did not provide further details of her condition, saying “the family is grateful for the outpouring of support it has received and aware of the interest in her condition, but they ask for privacy at this time.”

A source close to the family said early Monday that family members noticed “signs consistent with a seizure,” but said no diagnosis has been made as Heinz Kerry undergoes further tests at MGH.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Noah Brown, public information officer for Nantucket Cottage Hospital, confirmed in a brief phone interview that Heinz Kerry had arrived at the hospital that afternoon.

“She was brought in, in critical but stable condition, and that is currently how . . . . her condition still remains,” Brown said. “At this point, we are determining the next phase of her care, be that either in our facility on the island, or on the mainland.”

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Heinz Kerry has overcome serious health problems in recent years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2009 and underwent surgery and radiation treatments. She has publicly encouraged other women to get regular mammograms to help enable early detection of the disease.

The Kerry family’s holiday weekend on Nantucket was designed as a much-needed respite for the nation’s top diplomat following a frenetic pace of foreign travel, but it garnered unwanted headlines before Heinz Kerry’s hospitalization. On Friday, a State Department spokeswoman was forced to retract an earlier denial that Kerry had been on his yacht, Isabel, during the military coup in Egypt Wednesday.

Heinz Kerry married Kerry in 1995, four years after her first husband, Republican Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, died when the private plane he was aboard collided with a helicopter over Philadelphia.

She has been an influential player on the international stage in her own right.

Born in the African nation of Mozambique, Heinz Kerry is fluent in five languages, including her native Portuguese. As a young woman she moved to New York to become an interpreter at the United Nations.

The international experience has been central to her work running the Heinz family endowments, among the largest philanthropies in the United States, disbursing funding for social and environmental causes around the globe.

She also is an important player in her husband’s political career. She had a critical role stumping for him in the New Hampshire primary during his failed bid for the presidency in 2004, and was an effective spokeswoman for her husband’s personal side.

In recent years she has worked with him on various causes, including helping fund a prescription drug program for low-income Massachusetts residents and co-writing a book with him in 2008 titled “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future.”

Since Kerry resigned the Senate to become secretary of state in January, she has traveled with him on several of his foreign trips.

It was unclear Sunday how her condition would affect her husband’s official duties in the coming days. He is scheduled to hold meetings in Washington this week on the US relationship with China and has been overseeing sensitive negotiations to try to persuade Israel and the Palestinians to resume long-dormant peace talks.

As the news spread of her hospitalization late Sunday, those who know her expressed hope for a full recovery.

“My heart goes out to her, Secretary Kerry, and her family,” US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who has worked closely with both Kerrys, told the Globe. “She is a wonderful woman. She is warm, thoughtful, and cares passionately about what is happening in the world — health care, climate change. . . . [She] and John are an amazing couple.”

Globe Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report. Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.

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