CHICAGO — The announcement that Jesse Jackson Jr. had been transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota pinned down his whereabouts for the first time in weeks and gave clear confirmation that the Illinois congressman is suffering from depression.
It also was the first mention that he's now being treated for a "gastrointestinal issue," which some experts said Saturday was a sign his condition is becoming more complicated.
The Chicago Democrat and son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has been on a secretive leave of absence for nearly seven weeks, during which his office has released only occasional snippets of information, including that he was undergoing treatment for a "mood disorder" at an undisclosed inpatient facility.
A new, three-sentence written statement from the congressman was distributed by the Mayo Clinic late Friday during the national broadcast of the Olympics' opening ceremony, when public attention was more likely fixed half a world away.
As in the past, the statement gave scant detail, an apparent ongoing strategy in the face of pressure from congressional colleagues and constituents clamoring for an in-depth explanation.
It said he had been transferred to the Mayo Clinic for "extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues," but gave no information on the nature of his depression, where Jackson was being treated prior to arriving at the Mayo Clinic or his progress.
The clinic said Saturday it could not release anything further.
Mention of a gastrointestinal problem raised new questions – whether it's linked to the depression, entirely unrelated or a complication from a 2004 procedure he underwent to help him lose weight.
"Certainly some people do, as part of their depression or anxiety disorder, manifest it with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea," said Matthew Lilly, a psychiatrist in Rochester, Minn., who did a yearlong fellowship at Mayo in 2010 before going into private practice.
"But for them to even comment on that would, to me, sound as if it's a significant issue and not just a mild symptom associated with his illness," he said.
The Mayo Clinic has a highly rated gastrointestinal department as well as a free-standing inpatient psychiatric unit, said John Anderson of the Associates in Psychiatry and Psychology in southeastern Minnesota.
He said people receiving psychiatric care are often transferred to the clinic when a physical illness develops since both can be treated there.
"Mayo does an excellent job in terms of combining those, so they can treat what's essentially a dual diagnosis," Anderson said.
Phone messages left Saturday for Jackson's spokesman weren't immediately returned.
There was no word Saturday on how long Jackson might remain at the Mayo Clinic.
Typically, Mayo will keep someone as a psychiatric inpatient anywhere from several days to several weeks, Lilly said, though he added the use of the phrase "extensive inpatient evaluation" suggested to him it could be longer for Jackson.
"That would be pretty unusual for someone to stay as an inpatient more than a couple of weeks unless there were some pretty complicated issues going on," Lilly said.
The Mayo Clinic has treated other high-profile figures, including Saudi King Abdullah, and has a reputation for top-level security and strict patient privacy, which is evidently important to the congressman and those around him.
Clinic spokesman Ginger Plumbo said it released the brief statement only because Jackson's staff requested it.
"We would never just release information about any patient without their request or consent," Plumbo said.
The timing of Jackson's medical leave has raised questions, in part because Jackson is facing an ethics investigation in the U.S. House connected to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The congressman went on leave June 10, but his office didn't disclose it until weeks later. Initially, his office said Jackson was being treated for exhaustion. Since then, the office has said his condition was more serious and required inpatient medical treatment.
Earlier this month, a statement from an unidentified doctor said Jackson was receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for "a mood disorder."
The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
Jackson was not charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.