He's one of just two from the state of Illinois and one of just 100 in the country. So the release Tuesday of a video of Sen. Mark Kirk, showing how far he has come since his stroke 15 weeks ago is a welcome addition to the reports we've been receiving from doctors, family and colleagues.
We had no doubt the 52-year-old, who was seemingly in excellent health prior to the January stroke and subsequent brain surgery, would be an excellent candidate for recovery. But it's heartening to see just how hard Kirk is striving to get back to work as the state's junior senator.
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"I'm walking again," Kirk says in the video, "leading to my hope to climb the 45 steps that my staff counted from the parking lot to the Senate front door to fight for the people of Illinois."
The video is clear evidence that Kirk is recovering and all citizens of Illinois, whether they voted for him or not, should be pleased to see it. We have commented before on how members of both sides of the aisle have taken up the Highland Park Republicans's causes and legislation -- a move that shows bipartisanship still does work in Washington. But Illinois needs both its members of the U.S. Senate at work during these crucial times facing the country. So to see Kirk talking and walking gives us great hope that he and his sharp mind will being doing just that as soon as he is able.
We also think Kirk's video -- which shows him participating in a walk study -- will help and inspire many others who either are facing stroke recovery themselves or have family members struggling to recover.
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States -- killing more than 133,000 people each year. But the annual stroke death rate fell about 35 percent from 1998 to 2008.
There are an estimated 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. over the age of 20. Places like the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago -- where Kirk continues his recovery on an outpatient basis -- are helping those survivors take back their lives.
And high-profile cases like Kirk's also serve as a warning to even the healthiest of people to learn the risk factors involved with strokes and the warning signs of a stroke. While many factors are not controllable -- older than age 55, male, African-American, having diabetes or a family history of strokes -- many are. High blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, smoking, alcohol use and high cholesterol all are factors that can contribute to a stroke and can be controlled. Exercising and eating right is one way to do it.
Sen. Kirk was thankful that the public has been patient with him while he recovers. That patience should be a given.
We applaud him for sharing his story though video. We hope he continues to stay in touch with the public throughout his recovery until that day he does climb the Capitol steps.