Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson will have transplant surgery next week to receive a kidney from his son Daniel, who hopes to become a Chicago police officer, the superintendent told members of the department late Wednesday afternoon.
“I know it’s no secret that I’ve been managing a chronic kidney disorder for the last 30 years. Well the time has come that I have to put that to bed and put it behind me,’’ Johnson said in a video message to the department.
Johnson, who turned 57 in July, will have surgery next Wednesday, Aug. 30. Daniel Johnson is 25.
“After months of donor screening and matching with complete strangers offering me the gift of hope and life, I wanted you to be among the first to know that my son Daniel has been selected to be my kidney donor,’’ Johnson said in letter to the department also sent Wednesday afternoon.
“Daniel is a smart and dedicated young man who recently also made me incredibly proud when he decided that he wanted to pursue a life of public service and begin the application process to become a Chicago police officer,’’ Johnson says in the letter.
First Deputy Supt. Kevin Navarro will “take the reins’’ while he takes a “brief medical leave of absence,’’ which should not be longer than a “typical furlough,’’ or vacation period, according to Johnson.
Though he’s “not concerned at all’’ about the surgery, he said he was “humbled’’ and “immensely thankful’’ to all who supported him and wished him well.
“I want to especially thank those officers that attempted to donate but found out that they weren’t a match…I, I don’t have the words to really express my appreciation for that,’’ Johnson said in the video.
Earlier Wednesday at police headquarters, Johnson, at a news conference about firearm recoveries, did not specify when he was going to have surgery or use his son’s name.
But he said Navarro would be running the department’s day-to-day operations in his absence.
“He’s been a police officer for over 30 years, and the department and the safety of this city is in dedicated and experienced hands,” Johnson said of his second-in-command.
Johnson said that he would be getting his kidney transplant “in the next couple of weeks.” But he was mum when a reporter asked him the exact date of the surgery.
“You are something else,” Johnson joked to the reporter.
Johnson sounded jovial when he told reporters about how proud he was of his son for being there to donate his own kidney to save his father’s life.
“I really don’t have words to express that,” Johnson said. I’m proud of him because it wasn’t something that I asked him to do. He chose to do this for me.
“We’ve always had a good bond and quite naturally it’s really gotten deeper,” Johnson continued. “But he’s a lot like me.”
“And really he just kind of looks at it like I’m getting a tune up,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “Let’s get this done and move on. It doesn’t concern him. It doesn’t concern me, really. We both have our faith in God.”
“But I am extremely proud of him because it is a wonderful thing when you can actually see your son grow into a man that you can really be proud of,” said Johnson.
He first went public on Jan. 27 about being on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
That day, Johnson nearly fainted during a morning news conference at a South Side police station — flanked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other police officials — fueling speculation about his health. While he felt light-headed, he did not lose consciousness.
Hours later, Johnson held a news conference at police headquarters appearing refreshed, blaming his earlier episode on taking blood pressure medication on an empty stomach. But Johnson also talked about being diagnosed with a kidney ailment — glomerulonephritis, an acute inflammation of the kidney — more than three decades ago when he underwent testing as part of his applying to become a Chicago cop.
“So when I was diagnosed, I was 25 years old, and at the time the doctor … thought that my kidneys would probably last three to four years. And it’s been 31 years,” Johnson said at that news conference.
That evening, Johnson said he’s been told to expect to be back on the job three to five weeks after surgery.
Johnson said he had told Emanuel of the kidney condition in March 2016 when he was the surprise pick to be superintendent.
Saying his kidney ailment “doesn’t get in the way of work,” Johnson denied that he has diabetes or undergoes dialysis. And asked if stress aggravated either his high blood pressure or kidney ailment, Johnson said, “Well, I’m not a doctor, but those of you who know me, I take it as it comes.”
Johnson’s nephrologist, Dr. Paul Crawford, who also attended that news conference, noted that African-Americans are three to four times more likely to develop kidney disease, often because of diabetes or high blood pressure.