Senator who suffered stroke prepares to take 45 monumental steps
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It will be no easy feat.
Kirk, who was once so close to death he saw angels with New York accents at the foot of his hospital bed, has spent months in rehabilitation and now speaks and moves more slowly and deliberately.
He may use a wheelchair to get around the Senate corridors, but the 53-year-old was determined to mount the Senate steps on his own as he returns to work for the first time in a year.
“I’ve been dreaming of this day for months,” he told NBC Chicago earlier this week.
He wasn’t always sure it would happen.
"There was a time with my left leg when my doctors said, 'It will bear weight,' and I thought, 'You know, I'm the owner of this leg. Yeah, right. It'll never bear weight,’” Kirk said.
“They were right and I was wrong," he said in a sit-down interview in Washington.
The stroke he had last January affected the left side of his body but left his mental functions intact. He had three brain surgeries, and an 8-inch piece of his skull was temporarily removed to accommodate swelling.
He said the ordeal made him more religious.
"I felt like there were three angels in the room. And, interestingly, they had New York accents, probably because the last movie I'd seen was on Channel 11, was the original 'Ocean's 11,'" he said.
Bill Zars / Daily Herald via AP file
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks about his recovery from a major stroke a year ago at his home in Highland Park, Ill.
He replied: "No, I'll hold off."
“They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and this stroke put me into a very deep foxhole,” he told the newspaper.
Kirk, who was elected to the Senate in 2010 after five terms in the House, is living in a disabled-accessible apartment in Washington. He uses a four-pronged cane to get around and will scale back his schedule.
The stroke, he said, did give him a new perspective on a major policy issue: health care. He said he still doesn’t support Obamacare but knows many of his constituents don’t have access to the top-flight medical treatment he received.
"On the Medicaid side, how we address citizens of Illinois who suffer from a stroke ... working so that my fellow citizens have the opportunities that I had," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.