By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said after nearly fainting on Friday that he suffers from a chronic kidney ailment that requires a transplant in the near future, but said he expects to return to work following the surgery.
Johnson, 56, told reporters at police headquarters that the light-headedness he felt during an earlier news conference was nothing more than the fleeting result of taking blood pressure medication on an empty stomach.
Video of the incident showed the police superintendent, standing alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel, begin to stagger as Emanuel asked if he was "OK." The news conference ended abruptly and Johnson was helped to a chair.
Police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said later Johnson did not lose consciousness, had walked to his car on his own afterward and went to a nearby hospital, where he was checked by doctors and released.
Johnson said at his follow-up media gathering hours later his bout of dizziness was unrelated to his kidney disorder, glomerulonephritis, a condition he said he was first diagnosed with 32 years ago when he underwent medical tests as a young police recruit.
Johnson said he has since managed the disease without medication, and without it affecting his ability to lead a normal life.
However, Johnson said he had reached the point where a kidney transplant was necessary soon and that he was on a waiting list for an operation, which is yet to be scheduled.
"Once a donor is found and the operation takes place, I should be back to work in somewhere between three to five weeks," he said. Doctors had given their blessings for him to remain on the job until then, he said.
Johnson was named superintendent last March. His predecessor, Gerry McCarthy, was ousted amid public outrage that the city delayed for more than a year the release of a video showing a black teenager being fatally shot by a white officer.
Johnson's selection answered calls from civic leaders for an African-American veteran of the force to be chosen.
The mayor said he remained confident in Johnson's ability to do his job, and for his support staff to run the department during Johnson's recovery.
Friday's news conference was held to highlight increased use of technology aimed at aiding police officers' fight against violent crime. Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city, struggled last year with a surge in murders.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin and Karen Pierog in Chicago; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Leslie Adler and Paul Tait)