“For us in the stroke fraternity, we’re 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.”