Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday gave the public its first close-up glimpse of himself since he suffered a stroke in January, releasing a 2 1/2-minute video that shows his progress and struggles.
In the video, the Highland Park Republican speaks confidently – and occasionally haltingly – into the camera and talks about being anxious to walk the 45 steps up to the Capitol to begin working again.
“I suffered a stroke on the 21st of January and thanks to the doctors, nurses and professionals of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the RIC, I’m walking again,” Kirk says directly into the camera.
Video shows him walking determinedly, if not easily, with a walker and on a treadmill with the help of a harness and a physical therapist.
Some shots show him using parallel bars to support himself with his right hand.
Kirk says he hopes “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.”
Though doctors warned Kirk may suffer permanent facial paralysis, his facial expressions appeared little changed from before he suffered the stroke.
“I’m currently enrolled in a walking study for stroke patients,” he says in the video. “It’s described as an intensive program. One of the more interesting set-ups they had was a set of wraps around my legs with silver balls to be all recorded so a stick figure could be generated on the computer.”
His voice sometimes falters and his leg and arm clearly show signs of lingering paralysis as he does his rigorous exercise.
“They have some devious ways of making things more difficult,” Kirk says. “Yesterday, I was wearing a 10-pound weight. It was described as being the weight of a baby on your ankle, which really does slow you down.”
Julius Dewald, chairman of the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, watched the video and said he was impressed with Kirk’s progress.
“I think his speech was fantastic,” Dewald said. “I think he’s already in pretty good shape there. Usually we expect improvement over the first six months to a year, so we’re only part way into that, There is still some weakness in the hip and the knee but he’s able to stand up on one leg and bring the leg forward so that’s fantastic progress for someone with a stroke.”
Kirk says in the video that the rehab institute’s Dr. George Hornby can be a tough task master.
“Like me, Dr. Hornby is a physical therapist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so he knows a lot about the state of the art of the science,” Dewald said.
Kirk finishes by looking into the camera and saying, “I want to thank everyone especially for the patience they have given me to recover from a big stroke. I want to thank the people of Illinois for granting me the honor to represent them in the Senate.”
Reprising his campaign refrain, Kirk says, “I can’t wait to go back to work to vote to tax less, borrow less, and spend less to fix our economy.”
Illinois Republican Chairman Patrick Brady said after watching the video, “I think it should put to rest any doubts about Mark’s ability to recover. Watching the video – what a courageous guy. He’ll be back better than ever.”
The video is posted on Kirk’s website, www.kirk.senate.gov.