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Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk Faces A Tough Recovery From Stroke

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 24, 2012 3:40PM

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk faces a long recovery after undergoing surgery yesterday following a stroke.

The 52-year-old junior senator complained to his doctor over the weekend of odd feelings in his left leg, numbness in his left arm and seeing white flecks. He managed to drive himself to Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest, IL, where doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck. Kirk was transferred immediately to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago, where he underwent a 3-1/2 hour surgery where a 4-inch by 8-inch section of his skull was to relieve swelling.

Dr. Richard Fessler, the doctor who performed the surgery, said Kirk was fortunate the stroke was on the right side of his brain.

“Fortunately, the stroke was not on the left side of the brain, in which case it would affect his ability to speak, understand and think. We are very hopeful that when we get through all the recovery, all those functions will be intact.”

What isn't known at this time is how the stroke will affect the left side of Kirk's body. Fessler said the stroke could hamper Kirk's ability to move his left arm and leg, and possibly include facial paralysis. News of the stroke came as a surprise, given Kirk's age, fitness regimen and his fitness level. Congressman Mike Quigley said Kirk appeared vibrant and "ready to go" during a recent official trip to Poland.

Elected officials responded to the news of Kirk's stroke. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said:

"I have no doubt he will make a speedy recovery. I have reached out to his staff and offered to do anything I can to help with his Senate duties."

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom Kirk endorsed last month, said he wished Kirk "a swift return" to the Senate.