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Marion Barry returns to hospital, raising health concerns among friends, colleagues

D.C. Councilman Marion Barry (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Marion Barry has been admitted to a hospital for a second time this year, raising concerns among friends and colleagues about the former four-term D.C. mayor’s seemingly precarious health.

LaToya Foster, a spokeswoman for Barry, said the D.C. Council member was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Monday and spent time in the intensive-care unit. He is now resting in a regular room, she said Wednesday.

“I want to ease the people’s concerns,” Foster said. “Mayor Barry is doing much better than the public is speculating right now. Clearly, he’s not 100 percent, but he is coming along.”

Barry, who is less than a month from his 78th birthday, has a long history of health issues, from a gunshot wound suffered in 1977, when armed radicals invaded the District Building, to prostate cancer diagnosed in the mid-1990s, to a 2009 kidney transplant.

The new hospitalization came two weeks after Barry (D-Ward 8) was discharged following a 16-day stay at Howard University Hospital for what was described as a blood infection. After leaving Howard, Barry spent time recuperating at National Rehabilitation Hospital, a facility in Northwest Washington adjacent to Washington Hospital Center.

News of Barry’s readmittance raced across Twitter on Tuesday night, hours after it was announced at a Tenleytown candidates forum that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) would not attend because he was visiting a friend in “grave” condition.

Barry’s account issued a string of tweets Tuesday night seeking to ease concerns about his condition: “I was not rushed to the hospital. I am not seriously ill. I have a urinary tract infection. I will be back,” one message read.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Gray confirmed that he had visited Barry, spending five hours talking politics at his bedside. “He called me and asked me to come, and, you know, if he calls and asks me to come, I’m going to do that,” Gray said.

Gray said he had no knowledge of Barry’s specific condition or prognosis: “I think we all know that he has been grappling with health challenges. . . . I don’t know what the details are.” But he said that Barry was conscious and alert during the visit.

“He made phone call after phone call, and received phone calls, while I was sitting there,” Gray said.

A person close to Barry with first-hand knowledge of his medical situation said that Barry “will be fine in due course.” Doctors were concerned that his infection “wasn’t resolving itself quite as well as they thought it would,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Barry’s medication has been adjusted, the person added, but there is no indication yet of when he might be discharged and when he might return to work.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) visited Barry on Wednesday afternoon and said he was alert but physically weak and in need of rest.

“I am worried on a personal level,” he said. “I am worried about him, but he tells me everything is going to be fine, and I’m not betting against him. . . . People have lost fortunes betting against Marion Barry.”

While aides and colleagues say Barry has continued to conduct business while ill, he has not attended a council meeting since last fall.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said he, too, was “anxious” about Barry’s health.

“He’s had ups and downs for quite some time, and sometimes I think he needs to be more careful about his health,” he said.

But Mendelson said he had the impression that Barry had been doing much better since leaving the hospital last month. “He was actually the most energetic anybody had seen him in years,” he said.

Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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