Exclusive: Former Chicago Mayor Daley speaks about his health

March 31, 2014 (CHICAGO)

On Monday, the former mayor talked about his health as he and his family took part in a tradition on Chicago's South Side. The former mayor has made dramatic changes to his life in the nearly two months since his hospitalization.

Before then, he was averaging an international trip every other month, plus flying around the country for various board meetings in addition to his work drumming up business for a Chicago law firm.

Almost all of that has stopped. Daley is under doctor's orders to take it easy, but he wasn't about to miss the Sox home opener. Amidst the hype and hoopla of opening day, Rich Daley slips into Sox park almost unnoticed.

ABC7's Ben Bradley: "You just walked through this crowd almost like a private citizen."
Daley: "Oh yeah, this is good! I like that, I love it."

Daley still has his legendary laugh, but he has slowed down considerably since a serious health scare at the end of January. The former mayor was in Arizona at a conference for the law firm where he works, Katten Muchin Rosenman, when he became disoriented. An ambulance met his plane at the airport and Daley spent eight days in intensive care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Daley reportedly suffered a small stroke, something neither he nor his longtime aides will confirm.

Daley: "Feeling very well. Going to the White Sox game so that should be exciting."
Bradley: "But how's your health?"
Daley: "It's good, I'm doing alright."
Bradley: "What are doctors' orders?"
Daley: "Just stay close to home."
Bradley: "You know lots of people use the word stroke."
Daley: "I have slowed down a little bit and why not? You know, age is different but I'm doing well."

Inside the ballpark, Daley watches the home opener with his brothers and son. The family has circled the wagons. They loaned him to Chicago for 22 years, longer if you count his time before mayor, and view his health as intensely personal matter. Daley lost his wife Maggie to cancer six months after leaving office. His father, Richard J., died of a heart attack at the age of 74. The son, Richard M., was diagnosed an irregular heart beat in 2002. Two years earlier, he had chest pain. Before then, he hadn't been to see a doctor in a decade. Daley says eight days in intensive care caught his full attention.

Bradley: "Any specific doctors' orders?"
Daley: "Just pay attention to him."
Bradley: "You haven't done that well in the past."
Daley: "No, I'm paying attention to him now!"
Bradley: "Was this a wake-up call?"
Daley: "Yeah, a wake-up call."

The former mayor's speech has slowed just a bit, but he seems in good spirits and willing to slow down. He turns 72 at the end of April. This Friday is actually the 25th anniversary of his first election as mayor.

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