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updated: 8/5/2012 5:44 PM

Kirk releases second recovery video

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  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's office has released a second video of the Highland Park Republican, as he recovers from a stroke.

       U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's office has released a second video of the Highland Park Republican, as he recovers from a stroke.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Second Kirk video

 
 

Those who know U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk understand he is a man of measurables.

The Highland Park Republican is well-known for the graphs and charts he totes along to town hall and editorial board meetings, illustrating government debt and spending. Of his detailed, fact-laden floor speeches, and of his orchestration of an Illinois GOP presidential straw poll last fall. Months after suffering an ischemic stroke in January, Kirk was reportedly thrilled to see that a video detailing his recovery had more than 30,000 web hits.

So, of note Sunday, the senator's office released a second video showing the major strides Kirk taken in recent months -- including his walking a total of 14.79 miles and climbing 145 flights of stairs.

Kirk, in the YouTube video, calls the progress he is making as "very encouraging."

"Learning to walk again and improving my speaking skills, all due to the experts at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago," Kirk said.

Kirk, 52, has been in the care of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for several months.

He details "exciting moments," including climbing every stair of the institute's building.

At the same time he is undergoing therapy, he says, he's been briefed daily by his staff, is keeping up with Senate emails and is meeting with other members of Congress, many who have visited from as far away as Washington.

On the morning of Jan. 21, Kirk was preparing to travel from Highland Park to a Chicago event when a headache and dizziness suddenly came on, an experience he wrote about in a May letter posted on his Senate website.

"The headache worsened as the morning progressed, but I wanted to keep to my work schedule. At 11 a.m., a member of my staff, Andrew Weissert, picked me up at my house in Highland Park to take me to a noon meeting of my Eastern European Advisory Board in Chicago," Kirk wrote in the letter. "In the car, I felt new symptoms -- numbness in my hands and problems with my vision. I realized this was not a headache or even a migraine."

From the car, he called his doctor and friend Jay Alexander, who told the Naval Reserve officer and former 10th District congressman to "get to the emergency room at Lake Forest Hospital as soon as possible and he would meet me there."

Kirk's condition only worsened.

At Lake Forest, doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck, in which a flap of tissue blocked the flow of blood in the artery to the brain. They sent him by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago,

A day later, surgeons temporarily removed a 4-inch by 8-inch portion of Kirk's skull to alleviate brain swelling. It later was put back.

At the time of his stroke, doctors predicted Kirk would recover his full mental abilities. But the stroke on the right side of his brain affected his left arm and leg, his surgeon, Dr. Richard Fessler, warned at the time.

Sunday's video shows Kirk climbing stairs with the help of therapists and walking on a treadmill and along a rail. Speaking head-on at the camera, he is also recorded making phone calls and drinking coffee. While he gestures frequently with his right arm and hand in the video, his left arm moves very little, and his left leg is shown in a brace.

Kirk has faced his recovery privately, but it has been evident for months that he is preparing to return to political life. His Senate term ends in 2016.

In recent weeks, he has visited with Republican congressional hopeful Rodney Davis of Taylorville, with Republican congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale, and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

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