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Kirk set to return to Senate on Jan. 3

Stroke rehab termed strong

- Associated Press - Thursday, December 6, 2012

CHICAGO — Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who suffered a major stroke a year ago that required months of intense physical and speech rehabilitation, will return to work in Washington on Jan. 3, aides said Thursday.

The first-term Republican had indicated previously that he would be back next month but hadn't specified a date. His aides confirmed the date on Thursday, issuing a brief statement that he "remains on track to be back when the Senate convenes on Jan. 3rd for the 113th Congress."

His office provided no other details.

Mr. Kirk's doctors and outside medical experts have said the 53-year-old has made excellent progress.

His treatment has included vigorous experimental therapy with longer workouts than usual for stroke victims. Mr. Kirk walked nearly 15 miles and 145 flights of stairs over the course of nine weeks. Last month he participated in a charity stair climb at the Willis Tower. Gripping a handrail and wearing a brace, he climbed 37 floors in a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he has received treatment.

Though Mr. Kirk has not appeared publicly since the stroke, he has released a series of videos detailing his progress. They've shown him working with therapists and climbing stairs.

In one earlier this year, he said he dreamed of being able to walk up to the U.S. Senate chambers.

"I'm walking again, 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," he said.

The stroke Mr. Kirk suffered on Jan. 21 limited his speech and movement on the left side of his body. He underwent emergency surgery that included temporary removal of a piece of his skull to allow for swelling and the removal of small pieces of brain tissue destroyed by the stroke.

He spoke briefly to reporters last month on Election Day about his plans to return to Washington as he cast a ballot in suburban Chicago. He used a cane to walk and said his priority for this Congress would be banning sewage dumping in the Great Lakes.

Mr. Kirk helped fellow Republicans on the campaign trail, and his staff has remained active on several causes, including legislation on Polish visas and drought relief.

He was elected to the Senate in 2010 and previously was a five-term congressman representing a Chicago-area district.

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