The illness that caused the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery to seek medical help last weekend was a blood clot in the lung, according to a statement issued by hospital officials.
The civil rights icon was still in stable condition at Emory University Hospital Midtown on Wednesday, after being admitted there Saturday and spending time in the intensive care unit.
Lowery, who gave the benediction at the inauguration of President Barack Obama last year, suffered a pulmonary embolism, the hospital said late Wednesday, attributing the diagnosis to Dr. Kenneth Leeper, the hospital's director of pulmonary and critical care medicine.
Lowery "continues to rest comfortably in stable condition," the statement said. "His condition is steadily improving," it said, adding that there is "no timetable" for his release.
Friends said over the weekend that Lowery's condition was not serious and that they thought he would be released Monday. But his hospital stay dragged on.
Lowery, who last summer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, was scheduled to attend an African-American achievement award ceremony Saturday, but didn't make it, longtime friend and fellow civil rights leader Andrew Young told the AJC late Sunday.
"He was having shortness of breath, and he didn't come to the Trumpet Awards last night," Young said, adding that he thought his friend was suffering "respiratory problems."
David Stokes, another friend, said Sunday that Lowery initially was expected to be sent home Monday.
The 88-year-old Lowery was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the signature civil rights group originally headed by Martin Luther King, Jr. Lowery was its president for two decades beginning in the late 1970s.
Stokes, who was the SCLC spokesman when Lowery was president, said the last time he remembers Lowery being admitted to a hospital was when his blood pressure dropped a year ago after preaching a sermon.
The hospital said Lowery and his family are still not accepting visitors, "but thank everyone for their continued thoughts and prayers."