Cook Co. Board President John Stroger hospitalized
March 15, 2006 (WLS) -- Cook County president John Stroger spent Tuesday night in the hospital after having a stroke. Doctors sound upbeat about his recovery and said Stroger is in serious but stable condition.
At about 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, Stroger told his wife he was not feeling well and was having a pain in his leg. His wife called an ambulance, which took him to Advocate Trinity Hospital. He was later transferred to Rush University Medical Center by private ambulance where he underwent tests as a precautionary measure.
Doctors say he has slightly slurred speech and is unable to walk. Nevertheless, they are hopeful. Stroger has survived other health problems, including prostate cancer, a quadruple bypass heart surgery and diabetes. In November of 2002, Stroger was taken from a board meeting to a hospital due to low blood sugar.
"The president's vital signs have all been stable throughout the entire time period. He's had a normal blood pressure, a normal pulse and normal respiration. He has been awake, responsive, and he remained that way the entire time," said Dr. Robert Simon. "You never know with a stroke how bad it is for several days."
"In general, some will have difficulty in terms of walking or talking or speech after their stroke," said Dr. Mark Alberts, Northwestern Memorial Hospital director of stroke program.
Stroger is the first African-American president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He was first elected to the county board in 1970. He has served as board president for three terms and is currently seeking a fourth. He is battling County Commissioner Forrest Claypool in the March 21st Democratic primary.
Stroger's hospitalization comes as a new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll showed him with a lead over Claypool. Forty-seven-percent of voters surveyed picked Stroger, while 37 percent favored Claypool and 15 percent are undecided. The survey of 475 Cook County registered voters has an error margin of five percentage points.
Stroger was scheduled to do some radio interviews, record a political ad and get ready for Wednesday's county board meeting. Monday, Stroger made a number of public appearances, including a protest over the closer of some facilities at Bethany Hospital. Saturday, he marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
In a statement from the Cook County president's office Tuesday afternoon, it says Stroger was transferred to Rush University Medical Center, rather than the hospital named for Stroger, because that where his medical care and records have been.
Doctors are keeping visitors away from his hospital room for now, but Stroger's staff is confident.
"He has a fighting spirit like I've never known. So I would not be surprised if he wouldn't be on the phone giving me orders," said Chinta Strausberg, Stroger's spokesperson.
The board president Pro Tem Joseph Mario Moreno will run Wednesday's board meeting. In the meantime, Stroger's doctors say even under the best case scenario, the quickest recovery, it's unlikely they would recommend John Stroger return to work full time for at least about a month.
Stroger's history as Cook County president
Stroger is the first African-American president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He was first elected to the county board in 1970, and is in his third term as board president. He is currently seeking a fourth term.
Stroger was born in Arkansas and moved to Chicago in 1953. He has been involved in Democratic party politics ever since.
Stroger's condition could impact race for county board president
Next Tuesday, Cook County Democratic voters will decide if they want John Stroger to run for a fourth term as county board president. Stroger is on the ballot regardless of his medical condition, because the ballot has already been printed and it is too late to change it.
But if Stroger wins the Democratic primary against Forrest Claypool, and for whatever reason can't stay in the race against Republican Tony Peraica, the Cook County Democratic party would name a replacement to run in November, all of which makes the final week of the campaign confusing and uncertain for the candidates, their staffs and the voters. But the race is still a fight to the finish.
The candidates were doing their talking Tuesday night in new TV and radio ads, but Forrest Claypool, who cancelled his political appearances Tuesday night to reassess the situation, resumes campaigning Wednesday.
Stroger's re-election people, who were admittedly freaked out earlier in the day, said late Tuesday they would be back at full speed Wednesday, with supporters carrying the message in his absence.
County clerk David Orr, who remembers the chaos after the death of Harold Washington, says it will be up to the voters to sort it all out.
"Voters make a decision in a million different ways," said Orr.
Political guru Don Rose believes the uncertainty surrounding Stroger may benefit Claypool slightly.
"I think it may give people pause about whether they should ask John Stroger to continue or fear who the party might put up if John Stroger can't continue, and at least they know something about Mr. Claypool," said Rose.
Claypool raised a few eyebrows Tuesday afternoon by campaigning at a Rotary Club luncheon while Stroger was in the hospital, but he says it was the right decision.
"There are 500 people who came here and paid money to hear me speak today and I don't want to disappoint them, and there are important issues to discuss. But, you know, we fight hard in a campaign and that's part of the process. But we have to nonetheless respect John Stroger as a good man and wishing him well today and hope these tests turn out nothing is wrong," Claypool said.
Claypool is calling the race a toss-up, even though he trails Stroger by 10 points in a new Chicago Tribune poll. But either way, this may the first high-visibility election in anyone's memory where one candidate spends the final week in the hospital while the other walks on eggshells to campaign sensitively.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.
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