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U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. ‘completely debilitated by depression,’ wife says

Jesse JacksJr. his wife Ald. Sandi Jackshis electinight party March 20 2012. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson at his election night party on March, 20, 2012. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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Updated: September 6, 2012 6:26AM

The Jackson story . . .

The wife of ailing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is finally talking.

In an exclusive interview, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) walked Sneed through the dark days since her husband’s “collapse.” She also dispelled rumors that her husband, who is being treated for depression at Mayo Clinic, attempted suicide or was receiving help for alcohol and drug addiction.

“No, no, none of that is true,” said Sandi Jackson, who has been at the helm of her husband’s health care since he collapsed on June 10 at their home in Washington, D.C.

Ald. Jackson, who has spent the past month traveling from home to hospital to work, also provided a dramatic timeline for the congressman’s stunning absence, which netted sympathy and . . . criticism.

“His collapse was D-Day for us,” said Sandi Jackson, who tells Sneed her husband had become “completely debilitated by depression.”

She also claims the congressman’s world since June 10 has been immersed in a “news blackout.”

“We decided to impose a news blackout during his treatment to enable him to heal,” said Mrs. Jackson. Reports of Rep. Jackson being upset over the federal indictment of his old friend, Raghuveer Nayak, “can’t be true,” the alderman told Sneed. That’s because Nayak was arrested June 20 — after the blackout was imposed.

“He doesn’t know anything about the indictment.”

The congressman’s collapse had been prefaced by a tough political schedule, scrutiny, scandal and balancing a family life.

“I was in Chicago, when Jesse — who was at home in Washington, D.C. — collapsed,” she said. “His father, Rev. Jackson, called him on the phone and felt he didn’t sound right.

“Jesse told his father he was so exhausted, he couldn’t take another step.

“That’s when Rev. Jackson and Jesse’s brother, Yusef, took him to GW [George Washington] Hospital,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“His body was just worn out. I never really wanted him to have the gastric surgery in the first place. He called and told me not to worry, but it was obvious he was suffering from a form of depression.

“So Yusef took him at my suggestion to the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona, where they specialize in mental health.”

Celebrities who have acknowledged treatment at the Tucson center include musician Ringo Starr, actor Michael Douglas and actresses Julie Andrews and Kim Delaney.

At the Tucson facility, a question about a possible correlation between the depression and his weight-loss surgery — known as a “duodenal switch” — arose “due to lack of nutrients,” she said.

That was when a decision was made to head to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for more intense screening, she said.

“I thought it might be a good thing to drive to the Mayo Clinic from Tucson to give Jesse a relaxing break. But for security purposes — we decided to fly privately to the clinic instead.”

Ald. Jackson, who just returned with her two children from the clinic, also provided an update on her husband’s condition.

“What I can tell you is my husband has his good days and bad days and they are increasing his depression medication to therapeutic levels,” she said.

“They are now trying to find out if his depression, which has not yet been diagnosed as a bipolar disorder, is connected to the weight-loss surgery. We don’t know.

“Jesse is now gaining weight and eating and feeling better in that sense, but he is still very depressed. But I am encouraged by the number of tests they are running and the quality of the analysis.

“Our children talk to him first thing in the morning and the last thing at night,” she said. “His parents were also just with him.”

Is the political future of Congressman Jackson relying on the outcome of a health report?

“I fully expect him to return to work, but not a day before the doctor says it’s OK. That’s the word we are waiting for.

“It’s all up in the air. Jesse has his ups and downs. And although he has talked about teaching, he’s focusing on going back to work. Back to his job. He is a gifted legislator.”

Then she emphasized: “But the bottom line is family comes first and my husband’s health is paramount.”

Sneed also heard reports Jackson had initially planned to return to work before Labor Day and attend the Democratic National Convention.

“It’s up to the doctors,” she said. “But we should know soon.”

Sneed also heard reports that Sandi Jackson, a lawyer, is so concerned about her family — she, too, thought about getting out of politics. “Never say never, but no decision has been made,” she said. “I’ve loved working with Mayor Emanuel and I have a great staff.

“But family always comes first.”

It’s amazing . . .

Walker’s walk: Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker, who once walked the length of the state when he ran for governor in 1971, is turning 90 Monday. And he’s still writing books and advising his former staffer, Gov. Pat Quinn, to fight the onslaught of casinos in Illinois.


Please note: Sneed misidentified the reason Sweden is seeking to extradite Wikileaks chief Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations.

Sneedlings . . .

Sunday’s birthdays: Neil Armstrong, 82; Maureen McCormick, 56; Loni Anderson, 67, and Patrick Ewing, 50. . . . Monday’s: M. Night Shyamalan, 42; Geri Halliwell, 40; Soleil Moon Frye, 36, and David Robinson, 47.

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