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Jesse Jackson discharged to rehab center after 8 days in hospital

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was discharged Saturday after undisclosed surgery and eight days at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The civil rights leader was transferred to the Northwestern-affiliated Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for rehab. Calls of best wishes have flowed in, including from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Rev. Jesse Jackson called for COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and detainees at Cook County Jail during a press conference outside the Cook County Department of Corrections Division 11 on Dec. 17, 2020.
Rev. Jesse Jackson called for COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and detainees at Cook County Jail during a press conference outside the Cook County Department of Corrections Division 11 on Dec. 17, 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was discharged Saturday after undisclosed surgery and eight days of hospitalization at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The civil rights leader was transferred to the Northwestern-affiliated Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for rehab.

Calls of best wishes have flowed in to the hospital from far and wide, including a call from President Joe Biden and an extended conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris.

As first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, the 79-year-old founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was admitted to Northwestern on Jan. 29, and later rushed into surgery. The family confirmed the report, indicating it was minor surgery.

In a subsequent statement, PUSH said the civil rights leader was admitted after experiencing abdominal discomfort, underwent successful surgery and was expected to be discharged in a couple of days. That was on Jan. 31.

Sources said Jackson remained hospitalized all of last week, and many were concerned.

PUSH had declined comment. “There are no updates,” a spokesman told the Sun-Times Friday night, before confirming Jackson’s discharge to rehab Saturday.

“After medical observation, diagnosis and successful surgery, Rev. Jackson continued with a normal recovery. Because of his Parkinson’s disease, the medical staff at Northwestern has made a normal transfer of Rev. Jackson to the Shirley Ryan Rehabilitation Center for a short period of exercise and therapy,” PUSH officials said in a statement late Saturday night.

“Rev. Jackson is continuing his civil rights and organizational work, and is in high spirits. He’s expected to be home with his family shortly. Rev. Jackson wanted to thank the medical staff at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital for their terrific care and to thank everyone in Chicago and around the nation — including President Joe Biden who called and Vice President Kamala Harris who got through for a good conversation — for their continuing expressions of concern, love, support and prayers.”

On the day he was admitted, Jackson had been scheduled to host a press conference at Roseland Community Hospital to publicly receive his second dose COVID-19 vaccine and join the hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Sickle Cell and Oncology Clinic. Officials canceled the event two hours before.

Jackson had received his first dose of the vaccine three weeks ago, with Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, the Black woman scientist who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that developed the Moderna vaccine, at his side.

Jackson’s son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., had posted on social media earlier in the week: “I want to thank everyone who shared concern for my father and his hospitalization. As you know, my father is 79 years old and is struggling with Parkinson’s. We are so grateful for everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Dad is doing well and will be home soon.”

Jackson, who has led a lifelong battle for racial and economic equity, human rights and social justice, has been living with Parkinson’s disease since announcing the diagnosis on Nov. 17, 2017. It slowed but did not stop his activities, Jackson maintaining leadership of PUSH even as the illness has taken its toll.

The civil rights leader, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the ’60s and made two historic runs for the U.S. presidency in the 80s, has also lived with sickle cell trait for decades.