Sen. Mark Kirk joins thousands in Willis climb; Illinois Senator pushes 'stroke agenda' in fundraiser for Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

November 3, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Hundreds of people took part and for the second year, so did stroke survivor and Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.

Kirk credits the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for his ability to participate in Sunday's stair climb. The Illinois senator used the event to focus attention on the need for stroke patients to get equal access to high quality rehabilitation, so they can return to work. Kirk joined 3,000 others who made the climb.

They were winded, but kept going all the way to the top that would be 103 floors, 2,109 steps. Sky Rise Chicago at Willis Tower is the world's tallest indoor stair climbing event.

And for Illinois Senator and stroke survivor Mark Kirk, the climb is the world series of rehabilitation.

For a second year in a row, the North Shore Republican participated in the stair climb fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Kirk beat his record by climbing 41 stories compared to last year's 37.

"This was a little bit more difficult the last time, I had a physical therapist helping me, this was all on my own," Kirk said.

Kirk used the event to focus attention on what he calls his "stroke agenda." He introduced legislation that sets a national standard of care for stroke patients so everyone has access to the same high quality care that he received at the Rehab Institute.

Kirk says Medicaid in Illinois only covers four sessions, which is a lot less than what he got.

"In my case, Blue Cross, I had 51 sessions," he said. "It's obvious I had a better shot at getting back to work."

Many participating in Sunday's climb are current or former Rehab Institute patients, including Rob Losselyoung, who was injured in a snow mobile accident years ago.

"I was a patient at RIC 10 years ago, so on my 10-year anniversary I wanted to prove that when I was told I would never walk again. I wanted to prove I could do it," he said.

Lossselyoung says it took him a good year to train for Sunday's climb.

Determination is what drove many, including Sen. Kirk. He says his effort last year inspired many former and current RIC patients to participate this year.

Kirk hopes the attention will get his "stroke agenda" passed.

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