Illinois Sen. Kirk back on the job after January 2012 stroke
WASHINGTON, Jan 03, 2013 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nearly a year after suffering a stroke, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk returned to work today by symbolically conquering a steep flight of outdoor stairs at the U.S. Capitol.
Stopping on occasion to gather himself and flash a thumbs-up, Kirk, a Republican, was assisted by Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a close friend, as dozens of senators and House members applauded an ascent described later as "improbable" given the severity of his stroke.
He then took his regular seat in the Senate to resume a political career that some thought was over after being stricken on Jan. 21, 2012.
"Feels great," Kirk said, when asked by a reporter what it was like to return to work.
Kirk, 53, who was elected in 2010, suffered a massive ischemic stroke just shy of a year ago that required three brain surgeries.
Soon after, he began an intensive regimen at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in which he had to relearn how to walk. He suffers from loss of motion on his left side, walks with a heavy cane and speaks slower than he once did.
After Kirk's climb, therapists who treated him described his rigorous rehabilitation and an intense desire to resume his political career. They said only about one-third of stroke victims return to work.
"It isn't like boot camp, it is boot camp. We really train them as hard as we can," said George Hornby, who directed a one-of-a-kind trial described as high-intensity.
Michael Klonowski, his principal therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute, said that Kirk typically ended his sessions thoroughly exhausted.
"He was very dirven to achieve the goals he had set for himself," Klonowski said. "It was really something else to do this today."
Kirk plans to continue his rehab sessions in Washington.
Kirk, from suburban Chicago, is a moderate in his party. He was a House member before winning election to replace Democrat Roland Burris in the Senate and is up for re-election in 2016.
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