US Sen. Kirk gives 1st public message since stroke

May 8, 2012 - 4:35 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk issued his first public remarks since suffering a stroke in January, releasing a video clip Tuesday in which he offers details of his grueling recovery regimen and says he can't wait to get back to work.

The video shows scenes of the 52-year-old Republican senator walking at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, sometimes with the help of a cane, leaning on a wheelchair or on a treadmill aided by harnesses extending above his shoulders. He entered the rehabilitation center in February and was discharged just last week to continue his recovery as an outpatient.

In one poignant moment, he says his hope is "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."

Kirk suffered a major stroke on Jan. 21 and underwent emergency surgery that included the temporary removal of a 4-by-8-inch piece of his skull to allow for swelling. Doctors also removed two small pieces of brain tissue destroyed by the stroke.

Doctors have said the stroke was expected to limit movement on his left side and perhaps in his facial muscles, though they expected him to make a full mental recovery.

At one point in the video, which is posted on his official website and YouTube, Kirk is shown walking on a treadmill at the rehabilitation center with the help of a cane in his right hand. He wears braces on his lower left leg and his left arm, which both appear motionless though he is able to walk by swinging the left side of his body with a movement of his hips.

In narrating the video and in segments where he addresses the camera directly, Kirk speaks haltingly and at one point stumbles over his words, but his speech is clearly understandable.

Kirk thanks his doctors and nurses but also has a lighthearted dig at them for working him so hard on his exercises.

"They have some devious ways of making things more difficult," he says. "Yesterday I was wearing a 10 pound weight — they described it as the weight of a baby on your ankle, which really does slow you down."

Kirk has declined news media interviews since the stroke but his office has continued to work on constituent issues, and the senator met regularly with his staff members while he was staying at the rehabilitation center.

The video, which includes inspiring music, appeared aimed at letting the public know that Kirk is well on his way to getting back to work to represent them in Washington, though he offered no hints at a date.

"I can't wait to go back to work to vote to spend less and borrow less and tax less to help fix our economy," he says, thanking Illinois residents for their patience while he recovers.

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