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Article updated: 4/24/2012 7:12 PM

Sen. Kirk is busy working and walking

He meets with staff, will join rehab trial

Sen. Mark Kirk is “mentally sharp” and meets with his staff nearly every day, his doctors say. Here the Highland Park Republican is shown in the first photo released to the public since he suffered a stroke in January.

Sen. Mark Kirk is "mentally sharp" and meets with his staff nearly every day, his doctors say. Here the Highland Park Republican is shown in the first photo released to the public since he suffered a stroke in January.

 

courtesy of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicag

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U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is "mentally sharp" and is improving in strength and mobility as he recovers from a stroke, his Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago doctors report in their first update in more than a month.

The Highland Park Republican's staff released the first photo of the senator since the stroke, showing him seated at a desk with his right arm in front of him.

Throughout his therapy so far, Kirk has walked a total of more than 10 miles on a treadmill, his doctors said.

In addition to walking, Kirk is "climbing stairs and going in and out of vehicles" as part of his therapy, Richard Harvey, medical director at the Rehabilitation Institute, said in a prepared statement.

Kirk, he said, "is mentally sharp, and meets with his staff nearly every day to discuss policy issues and global current events."

Harvey said Kirk will soon begin participating in a research trial focused on improving his gait through "an intense regimen of continuous walking over flat surfaces, on stairs and on a treadmill every day."

The trial, one of more than 200 ongoing at the Rehabilitation Institute, is for people who've had a stroke one to six months ago and are "not yet back to their pre-stroke walking pace," the doctors said.

Kirk suffered a stroke and underwent subsequent brain surgery in January. Doctors predicted then that his mental capabilities would not be affected, but that regaining full use of his left side would be difficult.

It has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that the senator is both itching and ever determined to return to his political life.

Among others, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have offered judicial appointment recommendations and introduced pieces of legislation on Kirk's behalf.

Kirk has spoken and met with a number of officials, including in phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Durbin, and an in-person visit with Congressman John Shimkus of downstate Collinsville, which Shimkus described as inspirational.

Last week, after a WTTW-11 television segment on his condition, Kirk called to thank Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green, who was a panelist.

Visitors have described his voice as clear, his handshake strong and his political mind sharp, as he undergoes hours of intense physical therapy.

Kirk, a five-term congressman for the North suburban 10th District, was elected to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat in November 2010. He is 52.

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