By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Maybe D.C. Council member Marion Barry really does have nine lives.
After spending a week in the hospital, Barry (D-Ward 8) was ready to celebrate Monday evening when he was released.
Barry, who underwent a kidney transplant in February, had just spent several days in the intensive care unit at Howard University Hospital, where he was treated for dehydration and a blood infection. So he went to dinner with his longtime friend and caregiver Chenille Spencer, two of his godchildren and Kim Dickens, the friend who donated her kidney to Barry for the transplant.
Barry, who was recently featured in the documentary "The Nine Lives of Marion Barry," ordered shrimp and crab soup. The 73-year-old former mayor won't say where they dined.
After he ate, he said, his throat began to swell shut, his vision blurred and his tongue went numb. A short time later, his friends were rushing him back to the emergency room at Howard.
Barry said Tuesday afternoon that the episode scared him.
At the hospital, doctors performed an EKG and a CAT scan because they feared Barry was having a stroke or heart attack. But they later determined Barry was suffering from a seafood allergy.
Barry said he never previously had allergies. Barry's doctor, Clive Callender, said that it's not uncommon for them to develop suddenly and that his condition could have turned fatal if left untreated.
After being released from the hospital about 2 p.m. Tuesday under doctors' orders to avoid seafood, Barry described himself as "a living miracle" because of the health challenges he has faced.
In 1977, then-council member Barry was shot near the heart when terrorists overtook city hall. In subsequent years, Barry has received a diagnosis of diabetes, suffered from a bout of pneumonia and has battled prostate cancer.
"Some people seem to forget I am 73 years old," Barry said. "I am not 13 or 14, and nature takes it toll. . . . But I want people to see I am still kicking, still fighting."
Despite his recent health issues, Barry said he has no plans to retire from the D.C. Council because he said he is doing God's work.
"I have a passion for people," said Barry, whose term expires in 2013. "It's in my skin. It's in my bones. It's in my heart."
The doctor agrees. "In my opinion, that is what keeps him going," Callender said.