Six months after Mark Kirk's stroke, a rare update on the senator's health expected 'soon'

July 21, 2012

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Mark Kirk's office said the Illinois Republican is "eager to return to the United States Senate as soon as possible." The freshman senator suffered a stroke six months ago Saturday.

Excused absense

The last time Kirk addressed the Senate chamber was December 15 of last year, speaking in favor of legislation to clarify due process rights for some terrorism suspects.

"I think it's very narrowly crafted to defend the rights of American citizens and resident aliens inside the United States," Kirk told his colleagues and a C-SPAN audience.

Since the stroke, he has missed 181 votes in the Senate, though none were so close that his vote would've changed the outcome.

Kirk hasn't been listed as the primary sponsor of any new bills, but continues to co-sponsor legislation. His office declined to say whether Kirk personally signs off on those decisions.

But, in a statement, his Chicago-based chief of staff, Eric Elk, said Kirk "remains actively engaged in advancing the interests of Illinois residents while working to regain his mobility."

Health updates few and far between

On January 21, Kirk checked into the hospital for symptoms that would soon be identified with a stroke to the right side of his brain.

"It will affect his ability to move his left arm, possible his left leg and possibly involve some facial paralysis," said Dr. Richard Fessler, Kirk's neurosurgeon, during the first of two press conferences within a week of the stroke.

Since then, updates on Kirk's health have been sporadic and sparse. On May 8, Kirk's office posted a video, showing the senator getting physical therapy and speaking to the camera - his first public comments since falling ill.

"I want to thank everyone for the patience they have given me, to recover from a big stroke," Kirk said.

That video was released more than two months ago, though Kirk's office expects to provide another update soon.