Mayor Thomas M. Menino said Thursday that he expected to be released from a rehabilitation hospital Sunday, potentially ending an eight-week hospital stay that has kept him out of the public eye longer than at any time since he took office in 1993.
Menino offered the prediction during a conversation with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, who asked during a visit when the mayor might leave Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“Sunday,” Menino said in the conversation, videotaped by a Globe photographer. “I hope so.”
Thursday night, Menino’s spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, said it was not certain the mayor would leave the hospital Sunday.
“It’s a hope, but it’s not clear when he’s being released,” Joyce said.
A Globe photographer was allowed to take pictures and video of Lockhart and Menino during a physical therapy session under the condition the photographer not ask questions. Menino’s staff declined to allow a reporter in to observe the mayor and describe his recovery.
In the video, Menino had a black-and-blue circle under his right eye. In an e-mail, Joyce said Menino hit himself in the night. She would not elaborate.
Menino wore shorts, knee-high black socks, and a golf shirt as he performed exercises, which included stretching elastic-like bands with his arms. He appeared to engage Lockhart in conversation, and the pair sat on an exercise table and listened to a guitarist and flutist play Christmas songs.
At one point, Menino and Lockhart sang a duet of “Winter Wonderland.”
“Great job,” Menino declared when the song ended.
Lockhart quipped, “We should get a bar gig.”
There have been few glimpses of Menino the past 2½ months, a stark change for a mayor shown in polls to have personally met more than half of Boston’s residents.
“It’s absolutely been noticed,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the TenPoint Coalition. “But I think for me, it’s not so much a concern about whether our city government is running efficiently; I believe it is. For me, it’s just a personal thing. I’m concerned about him. He’s a friend.”
Menino, a five-term mayor who will turn 70 at the end of December, has one year remaining in his current term and has not said publicly if he will seek reelection.
He left City Hall on Oct. 14 for a two-week trip to Italy with his wife to celebrate their 46th anniversary. Feeling ill, Menino cut the trip short, returned to Boston, and was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Oct. 26.
Doctors initially diagnosed Menino with an upper respiratory infection and a blood clot that traveled from a leg to his lungs. In the hospital, he suffered a spine fracture. Menino had begun to recover from the fracture, doctors have said, when he developed an infection in the same area. Tests showed that the mayor has type 2 diabetes, which can cause greater susceptibility to infections.
Since transferring Nov. 26 to Spaulding, Menino has had physical therapy each day in a regimen that has included trips to his Hyde Park home.
During his initial hospitalization, Menino’s communication was limited to a small circle of trusted aides. Recently, the mayor has again begun calling employees at City Hall, which aides took as a good sign. At the rehabilitation hospital, he has held meetings with an array of advisers, city employees, and civic leaders.
At the end of November, three Boston reporters were granted a 16-minute interview with Menino, but he seemed listless and tired. Earlier this week, the New York Times published a story based on an hourlong interview with the mayor. On Thursday, Menino sounded upbeat and engaged in a phone interview with a Globe reporter about his new education initiatives.
In the mayor’s absence, his staff has issued press releases to reporters in response to questions. This week, his administration released a 35-second audio recording of Menino talking about the Newtown, Conn., massacre. His staff released a 36-second message last week that Menino recorded for volunteers performing the city’s annual homeless census.
Earlier this month, Menino cancelled an annual speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that has been used to make major policy announcements. His hospitalization has unleashed “rampant speculation” as people discuss Menino’s health, said Paul Grogan, of the Boston Foundation. People do not seem unnerved by the extended absence, he said, because Menino has a reservoir of goodwill.
“I think it would be very different with somebody else,” Grogan said.
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