Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson discharged from rehab after 3 weeks; had been unable to walk after illness, surgery

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was discharged Tuesday from rehab at the Northwestern-affiliated Shirley Ryan AbilityLab following an undisclosed illness and surgery. The civil rights leader was hospitalized for eight days in January.

SHARE Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson discharged from rehab after 3 weeks; had been unable to walk after illness, surgery
Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, the Black woman who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that discovered Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, on Friday urged the Black community to get vaccinated. The renowned immunologist was in Chicago to accompany Jackson to his vaccination at Roseland Community Hospital, as part of efforts to battle distrust of the vaccine in the Black community.

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks as Kizzmekia Corbett, the National Institute of Health’s lead scientist for coronavirus vaccine research, stands beside him in the Roseland Community Hospital’s parking lot in the Roseland neighborhood, where Jackson received his COVID-19 vaccine, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was discharged Tuesday from rehab at the Northwestern-affiliated Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where he had spent over three weeks, following an undisclosed illness and surgery.

The 79-year-old founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, who was hospitalized for eight days in January, disclosed he had been unable to walk when transferred to rehab on Feb. 6.

“When I entered the rehab center, I was unable to walk.Today, I walked out returning home, and work strengthened.I look forward to returning to work to continue to make a difference in racial injustices, and I look forward to the next march,” said the civil rights leader.

“Thank you, withan abundance of appreciation and gratitude to the Ryan Rehab staff.They are the best. The doctors, medical team, and therapist have provided me a healthy recovery.”

As first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jackson was admitted to Northwestern on Jan. 29 and later rushed into surgery. The family confirmed the report, indicating it was minor surgery. PUSH subsequently stated the civil rights leader was admitted after experiencing abdominal discomfort and underwent successful surgery.

Calls of best wishes had flowed in to the hospital from far and wide, including from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

PUSH had not responded to inquiries from the Chicago Sun-Times last week and earlier this week about their founder’s health and expected duration of rehab until Tuesday’s press announcement.

“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 made a normal transfer of Rev. Jackson to the Shirley Ryan Rehabilitation Center for a period of exercise and therapy. After a month at the Shirley Rehab Center, he leaves today to return home to his family and friends and his civil rights work,” PUSH said Tuesday.

As he has all along, Jackson on Tuesday thanked the medical staff at Northwestern for “his terrific care,” and “everyone in Chicago and around the nation for their continued 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. Jackson has lived with sickle cell trait for decades. Officials canceled the planned event two hours before.

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, had received his first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 8, 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, 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. Jackson has maintained leadership of PUSH even as the illness has taken its toll.

Also Tuesday, Jackson mourned the passing of fellow civil rights leader and his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brother, Vernon Jordan, who died Monday night at age 85.

The death of Jordan, who had held leadership roles with the NAACP, United Negro College Fund and National Urban League, comes months after the deaths of two other civil rights icons: U.S. Rep. John Lewis and C.T. Vivian.

“Vernon Jordan was a colleague of mine in the Civil Rights Movement and a good personal friend. I will miss my great friend Vernon Jordan. Thank you for a job well done. Our prayers are with your family during this time of bereavement. Rest in peace Vernon,” Jackson said. “You left the world better than you found it.”

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