Jimmy Carter on medical scare in Canada: “I got through it fine.”

8:28 p.m Friday, July 14, 2017 AJC Homepage
Jimmy Carter smiles as his wife addresses the closing ceremony audience for the 34th Habitat for Humanity Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Winnipeg Friday night.

Jimmy Carter on Friday night apologized for what he described as his “weak moment” when he became dehydrated on the site of a Habitat for Humanity building project in Winnipeg, Manitoba and ended up in the hospital.

“My bringing attention to this Habitat project was completely unintentional,” Carter, 92, said with a sly grin during the closing ceremony of the 34th Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which was livestreamed. “I apologize to all of you for my weak moment yesterday, but I got through it fine.”

The former president became dehydrated and needed medical attention on-site Thursday morning, which was Day Four of the five-day, 150-home building blitz across Canada. As a precaution, he was transported to St. Boniface General Hospital for rehydration; after being released Friday morning, he headed straight back to the building site with his wife, Rosalynn, to attend the morning devotional that kicked off the final day of the massive project.

But it wasn’t quite that simple, Rosalynn Carter, 89, told the audience at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg Friday night. 

“I’m going to talk a little bit about Jimmy, and he’s not going to like it,” she said as her husband of 71 years sighed slightly beside her onstage. A “wonderful” medical team tended to him in an RV onsite, she related, “and they all thought it was simply dehydration. Then somebody said, ‘Well, maybe we ought to see about his heart.’”

Leaning into the microphone slightly, she confided about the Nobel Peace Prize winner, “Well, of course,Jimmy rebelled at that.”

Former President Jimmy Carter became dehydrated on a Habitat for Humanity build in Winnipeg Thursday morning and reportedly received medical attention.

But eventually they convinced him to go to the hospital where he spent the day having “every test that there is in the world for heart disease,” his wife continued. Ultimately, she said, the results showed, “There has never been any kind of damage at all to Jimmy Carter’s heart.” As an enormous wave of cheers and applause broke out, she added, “I knew he had a good heart.”

And he’s not about to hang up his tool belt just yet. Near the end of the hourlong ceremony, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford announced that the former first couple had agreed to “do this again next year.” The 35th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project will take place in St. Joseph County, Indiana, in September 2018.

Habitat for Humanity won’t have to work very hard to drum up publicity for that or future projects, Reckford jokingly suggested Friday night.

“Just to show how devoted President Carter is, I think this week shows that he will do anything to bring more attention to the need for affordable housing,” he said, as the former president chuckled over this reference to his headline-making “weak moment” on Thursday. “We managed to get record breaking press this week!”

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