The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

December 31, 2012

Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke

CHICAGO — Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate’s front door this week — a walk that’s significant not just for Illinois’ junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.

It’s estimated only one-third of patients return to work after a stroke, said Dr. Elliot Roth, medical director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s New Patient Recovery Unit and AbilityLab, where Kirk recovered.

The 53-year-old Republican will return to the high-profile, demanding life of a Washington lawmaker after an experimental rehabilitation so intense it’s often compared to boot camp, Roth said. Patients keep grueling schedules, often spending eight hours a day or more re-learning how to walk, talk and do other tasks.

Because there are risks to going back to work unprepared, patients do “practice runs” of what it will be like to be back on the job. If and when they successfully return to work, Roth added, “It’s like having a great symphony play and recognizing it’s all the practice beforehand that went into it.”

Kirk will walk back into a Congress that has grappled for weeks over how to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff,” a series of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect Tuesday if a deal can’t be made. There was no expectation Monday that a compromise could be approved by both the House and Senate before midnight.

The Illinois senator’s return will be inspiring to fellow stroke patients, said Frank Watson, the former Republican leader of the Illinois Senate who resigned from office after his 2008 stroke.

“For us in the stroke fraternity, we’ve very happy to see this occur, to see somebody taking their life back,” Watson said. “There are so many people who don’t make it back.”

Kirk, who won President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat in 2010, checked himself into a hospital in January 2012 after feeling dizzy. Tests revealed that the avid swimmer had suffered a major stroke. Surgeons had to remove two small pieces of destroyed brain tissue, and temporarily removed a 4-inch by 8-inch portion of his skull to allow for swelling.

Doctors said movement in Kirk’s left side was severely limited. He was in intensive care and would need speech therapy, but they expected he would make a full mental recovery.

Within days, they said Kirk was asking for his Blackberry. In May, Kirk released a video updating his progress and showing footage of him walking with the help of a harness, a cane and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago staff. It also included clips of Kirk speaking while sitting in a chair, his left shoulder lower than his right and the left side of his face still largely paralyzed.

Kirk said in the video that his staff had counted the steps from the parking lot to the front door of the Senate. It was his hope to climb all 45 of them someday, “to fight for the people of Illinois.”

In a separate video released three months later, Kirk was shown climbing stairs at the RIC and working in his home office. He said he had moved back to his home in the north Chicago suburbs, and that he was talking to his staff several times a day and keeping up with business in Washington via email. He also touted the experimental therapy, through which he had logged almost 15 miles and 145 flights of stairs.

Roth said the study represents a new approach to stroke rehabilitation, which has traditionally been slower and more cautious. In the study, one group — which included Kirk — was pushed harder and walked more, in an effort to see if it led to a quicker recovery.

In November, Kirk climbed 37 floors of stairs inside Chicago’s Willis Tower as part of an RIC fundraiser. One of his therapists called it “remarkable progress.”

Kirk has said little to the media throughout his rehabilitation. Through his staff, he declined to comment about his return to Washington. They have said he’ll walk the steps Jan. 3, when the new Congress convenes.

Watson, who was in a wheelchair for months after his stroke, said it will be important for Kirk to take it slow and make time for continued rehabilitation, noting “it’s not over.”

Watson’s stroke affected his emotions, prompting him to break down in tears at times he previously would not have. It’s something that still happens a little, he said.

Moments later, talking about the significance of Kirk’s return, Watson began to cry.

“We need success stories,” he said, “and Mark’s one of them.”

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Salmonella decline seen in food poisoning report

    The government’s latest report card on food poisoning shows a dip in salmonella cases but an increase in illnesses from bacteria in raw shellfish.

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge in gay marriage case asks pointed questions

    A judge in Colorado who will play a pivotal role deciding whether gays should be allowed to wed in the United States asked pointed questions Thursday about whether Oklahoma can legally ban the unions.

    April 17, 2014

  • Obama shows skepticism on Russia in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments.

    April 17, 2014

  • Cyber cops: Target hackers may take years to find

    Secret Service investigators say they are close to gaining a full understanding of the methods hackers used to breach Target’s computer systems last December.

    April 17, 2014

  • Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies

    As political campaigns begin to heat up, the Supreme Court is deciding whether false accusations and mudslinging made during an election can be punished as a crime.

    April 16, 2014

  • Auto Show Nissan Hot _Cast.jpg Hot models at this year’s New York Auto Show

    With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the U.S. auto industry.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • Transportation Blues 2.jpg Congress is giving states the transportation blues

    On the road in a tour bus this week, the U.S. transportation secretary is spreading some bad news: the government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Report: Russia withheld intel before Boston attack

    A yearlong review of information the U.S. intelligence community had prior to the Boston Marathon bombing found that the investigation could have been more thorough.

    April 11, 2014

  • Obama Health Secretary.jpg Obama announces Sebelius resignation, successor

    President Barack Obama praised outgoing Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for helping to steer his health care law’s comeback after a rocky rollout, even as he nominated a successor aimed at helping the White House move past the political damage.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police seek driver in deadly Florida day care crash

    As mourners trickled by Thursday to honor the 4-year-old girl who was killed and 14 others injured in a crash at a Florida day care, authorities scoured the state for the driver they said fled in the vehicle that caused the fatal wreck.

    April 10, 2014

Facebook
Poll

A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

Yes.
No.
     View Results
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case