CHICAGO – U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who disappeared on a secretive medical leave two months ago, is expected back home within a matter of weeks, an aide said Thursday.
Jackson, 47, currently is being treated for depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and has been away from the public eye since June 10 when family members said he collapsed at their Washington home.
Jackson aide Rick Bryant said he recently spoke with Jackson, who asked Bryant to reach out to mayors and get updates on projects in his district, which includes parts of Chicago and stretches south.
"He's been in touch over the weeks. This was the most engaged he was," Bryant told The Associated Press. "He seemed like his old self."
Bryant said Jackson could emerge from leave in possibly three weeks, but it will be up to doctors.
Jackson's office has released few details about the congressman's health. At first his medical condition was described as exhaustion. Later, a statement from an unnamed doctor referred to it as a "mood disorder."
It was only earlier this month that Jackson's office said he was at Mayo and being treated for depression, after a transfer from the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona.
"He expects to make a full recovery and hopes to be on the job soon," Bryant said. "He has not talked to his base in a while."
Jackson, who first won office in 1995, is on the November ballot with two little-known candidates. He's widely expected to win re-election in the heavily black, urban and Democratic district that has recently been redistricted to include more rural and white voters.
However, the sporadic and sparse details released about Jackson's condition since his leave began have prompted much scrutiny and speculation. His office did not disclose it publicly until June 25, nearly two weeks in. Members of his prominent family — including his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson — have been reluctant to talk.
However, Sandi Jackson said Thursday that doctors are trying to determine the proper mix of medications for her ailing husband.
"At this point, we are taking every day one day at a time," said the alderman during a street naming ceremony. "But we here on the ground are preparing for his eventual return. We don't know when that's going to be, but we want his constituents to know that they are very much on his mind."
Sandi Jackson said the family is taking every day one at a time, but is preparing for his eventual return. She said her husband was "getting better" and talking to their children every morning and evening.
"We know that of the millions of Americans that suffer from depression, many go back to work and live very fruitful lives," she said. "I expect Jesse will too."
The timing of the leave — which comes as Jackson is under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich — also raised questions. The committee is investigating allegations Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
The announcement of the leave also came just days after a former fundraiser connected to the allegations was arrested on unrelated federal medical fraud charges.
Jackson has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
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