Senator Kirk returns to Washington, plans to climb Capitol steps Thursday

January 2, 2013 8:18:13 PM PST
Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is back in Washington, DC Wednesday nearly one year after suffering a stroke.

He offered his first in-depth comments on his stroke and rehabilitation in an interview with ABC7.

"The greatest honor of my life was to serve the people of Illinois as their junior senator and there was no way I was going to quit," Kirk said.

He has minimal use of his left arm but is able, over limited distance, to walk with a four point cane. Much of his travel though will be by wheel chair.

"I've been laid up like a caged animal, seeking any excuse to get out of the house and get into this house, the Capitol," Kirk said.

Since his stroke less than a year ago, Kirk has undergone three brain surgeries and gone through an extremely aggressive rehab program.

" I thought that I could die. It feels, felt, that serious," he said.

Kirk came back to Washington over the holiday and returned briefly to his office. However, his moment of symbolism comes Thursday when he will walk 46 steps from the parking lot up to the Senate entrance of the Capitol.

"I just felt that the Capitol has an awful lot of steps," he said. "That would be a good symbolic goal for me and it's about setting goals every month that are big enough and meaningful enough for me."

"I want people across the State of Illinois to know and say 'Kirk came back', now he's climbing the capital steps to show a patient must keep going," he said.

Conquering steps has been a constant goal. From rehab to climbing to 37 floor of the Willis Tower in late October and now the steps of the Capitol.

Many people who have suffered similar strokes, and haven't had the same caliber of rehab, are not able to return to work.

"The idea is that almost everybody has some degree of improvement," Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago rehabilitation expert Dr. Elliot Roth said. "To improve enough to go back to work is still sadly relatively unusual."

Kirk is the beneficiary of an outstanding therapy program and his own determination.

"I thank the people of Illinois for their patience for this patient," he said. "The stamina comes from my colleagues, Dick Durbin who has been an absolute prince to me."

Sen. Durbin and Vice President Joe Biden will walk up the steps with Kirk.