Reflecting on his health and his political clout, D.C. Council member and “mayor for life” Marion Barry was in good spirits a day before his 78th birthday as he was set to be released Wednesday from a physical rehabilitation facility after being hospitalized for urinary tract and blood infections.
Mr. Barry admitted the infections “knocked me for a loop,” but said his condition was not as grave as “political enemies” had made it out to be. He added that he intends to serve out the remainder of his council term, which lasts through 2016, though he will be taking more time to care for himself.
“I’ve been so busy caring about everybody else, trying to help other people, that I’ve sometimes neglected my own self,” said Mr. Barry, the four-term mayor who most recently is in his third term representing Ward 8 on the council. “But no more. I’m going to put my health at the top of the agenda.”
Mr. Barry had two stints this year in the hospital and spent the last 16 days in the Medstar National Rehabilitation Network working on physical therapy. The Democrat has also dealt with numerous illnesses over the years. In addition to living with diabetes, he survived prostate cancer and a kidney failure that in 2009 required an organ transplant.
Sporting an Adidas track jacket and a MedStar baseball cap, Mr. Barry bantered with reporters at the rehabilitation facility before his discharge Wednesday afternoon.
“By anybody’s poll, I’m the most popular elected official in the city,” said Mr. Barry, who seemed glad to be back in the media spotlight.
Though Mr. Barry declined to weigh in on the D.C. mayoral race, which is heating up ahead of an April 1 primary, he said he has kept up on local events from the hospital. He was delighted by the D.C. Council’s passage Tuesday of the marijuana decriminalization bill, noting that he made calls to several council members who were “on the fence about it.”
Noting that he will still face weeks of physical therapy, Mr. Barry described himself as a fighter and said he had already tackled one very important challenge — successfully climbing a flight of stairs.
“I guess God gave me a certain amount of courage, resilience, you know and nine lives. I think I might have some more lives since then,” he said with a chuckle.