Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt will not undergo surgery but will remain hospitalized for another night.
Creighton University Medical Center spokeswoman Kathy Niver said Thursday afternoon that the councilman's condition had been upgraded from serious to stable after doctors completed tests on his heart.
At Gernandt's request, the hospital is not releasing specific information about the medical issues that prompted the hospitalization. On Wednesday, Gernandt suffered chest pains at a press conference and ended up in an ambulance.
Earlier Thursday, Gernandt issued this statement through Niver: "My heartfelt thanks to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and well wishes." He also told Niver that he was feeling "resting and improved."
Wednesday night, Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen said the council's chief of staff visited Gernandt at Creighton University Medical Center.
“He's doing well and in good spirits,” Festersen said, adding that Gernandt would be kept overnight for observation.
Gernandt had just arrived for the press conference at Spring Lake Park when the pain started.
Councilman Chris Jerram, also at the event, said Gernandt started walking toward the crowd gathered for a presentation on a sewer project grant and then abruptly turned around. He walked back over to his car and then called to a friend for help.
Bill Hanes, a Spring Lake Neighborhood Association member who said he's a longtime friend of Gernandt, ran over to the car. He said the councilman was sweating and struggling to breathe, pale and complaining of an awful pain in his chest. Hanes dialed 911.
“If that's not a heart attack, it's the closest thing to it,” he said.
When medics arrived, Gernandt was loaded into an ambulance.
Several city officials, including Mayor Jean Stothert, were at the event. They waited until the ambulance had made its way out of a winding road into the park, sirens on, before leaving.
The press conference was canceled.
Niver, the hospital spokeswoman, said she spoke to Gernandt about an hour after he was admitted. Gernandt told her he had wanted to be checked out because he was feeling uncomfortable. She said several doctors were attending to the councilman.
Medical problems have sidelined sitting council members before, and occasionally require the council to approve a member's extended absence.
Under the City Charter, the council is required to excuse a council member who is absent for three consecutive months. After six consecutive months of missed meetings, the charter requires a council member to automatically forfeit the seat.
A former Omaha police sergeant and 31-year veteran of the force, Gernandt also served in the Marine Corps and graduated from South High School.
The Democrat and South Omaha representative recently served as the council's vice president, before ceding the position this week to Councilman Ben Gray.
Gernandt was elected to his fourth council term in May, defeating independent Virgil Patlan for the District 4 seat.
“He's a good guy,” said Janet Bonet, a longtime Spring Lake-area resident who has known Gernandt since he was patroling South Omaha. “Never misses a meeting. Unless he's out of town for something, he's there, always.”