Marion Barry, former mayor, current Ward 8 councilmember, and political legend, is awake and resting comfortably at Howard University Hospital this morning after six-hour kidney transplant surgery.
Said Barry spokesperson Natalie Williams, “I think of only two words: true soldier.”
The surgery, which began shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday and ended around 11 p.m., has been thus far judged successful by doctors, though the possibility of rejection still exists. Scarring from previous surgery for prostate cancer complicated the procedure somewhat, doctors said, but not usually so. Chief Surgeon Clive O. Callender said that per usual procedure, Barry will get out of bed briefly today for routine exercises.
This morning, according to Williams, Barry slowly raised his hand, touched thumb to forefinger, and said, “I am A-OK.” Bishop Glen Staples, pastor of Ward 8’s Temple of Praise, said Barry was “in good spirits” and had an appetite this morning. He was given broth and tea.
Yesterday, Barry aides had promised a 10 a.m. press conference with the patient himself and the kidney donor—-perhaps in a nod to Barry’s 1977 press conference from an intensive-care bed at Washington Hospital Center after being shot in the District Building by Hanafi Muslims. But with Barry in the Howard ICU less than 12 hours after the surgery finished, that, unsurprisingly, wasn’t going to happen. It was a blessing for reporters: A press confab at the hospital featuring various doctors, aides, and confidantes started right on time.
The woman who donated the kidney has been identified as Kim Dickens, a 47-year-old Ward 6 resident. Williams declined to detail Barry’s prior relationship with Dickens, other than to say that the two had known each other for “more than 10 years.”
Said Williams of Dickens, “She’s in tremendous spirits this morning….She was most concerned about how the former mayor was doing. To me that really speaks volumes about who this woman is.”
It’s unclear when Dickens was first approached about donating her kidney to Barry; Williams described Dickens as being part of a group of about six Barry friends who were asked to get tested for compatibility. When notified she was a match, said Williams, “she said she just began to weep tears of joy just to be able to assist in saving Marion Barry’s life.
Barry received a telephone call Mayor Adrian M. Fenty attempted to call Barry, Williams said, and 24 people are on a list to visit the mayor-for-life in his hospital room. Councilmembers Kwame R. Brown, Michael A. Brown, David A. Catania, Mary M. Cheh, and Harry Thomas Jr., as well as Chairman Vincent C. Gray, were all mentioned as having called or visited their ailing colleague before the operation or having sent their best wishes.
Last night, a small group gathered to hold vigil while the surgery was underway. The group, LL is told, included Barry’s spiritual adviser Rev. Anthony Motley, friend Robert James, chief of staff Bernadette Tolson, and companion Chenille Spencer. Earlier in the day, Christopher Barry, his son with late wife Effi, visited with his father. Estranged wife Cora Masters Barry was not present, Williams said.
“The waiting was hopeful waiting,” says Motley, who prayed with Barry before the surgery. “He sent the tone, based on his attitude about it. As we were walked down the hallway [to the operating room] it was very joyful.”
A press conference with Barry and Dickens, Williams said, will be held late next week.