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Illinois senator, recovering from stroke, headed back to work

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 6:58 p.m.

CHICAGO — Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a major stroke a year ago that required months of intense physical and speech rehabilitation, will return to work in Washington on Jan. 3, aides said on Thursday.

Kirk had indicated that he'd be back next month but hadn't specified a date. His aides confirmed the date, saying in a brief statement that the Republican “remains on track to be back when the Senate convenes on Jan. 3rd for the 113th Congress.”

His office provided no other details.

Kirk's doctors — and outside medical experts — have said that the 53-year-old has made excellent progress.

His treatment included vigorous experimental therapy with longer workouts than usual for stroke victims. Kirk walked nearly 15 miles and 145 flights of stairs over the course of nine weeks. Last month he even participated in a charity stair climb at the Willis Tower. Gripping a handrail and wearing a brace, he climbed 37 floors for a fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he's received treatment.

While Kirk has not appeared publicly since the stroke, he has released a series of videos detailing his progress. They've shown footage of him working with therapists and climbing stairs.

In one earlier this year, he said he dreamed of being able to walk up to the Senate chambers.

“I'm walking again, leading to my hope to climb the 45 steps that my staff counted from the parking lot to the Senate front door, to fight for the people of Illinois,” he said.

Kirk suffered a stroke on Jan. 21, which limited movement on the left side of his body and speech. He underwent emergency surgery that included the temporary removal of a piece of his skull to allow for swelling and the removal of small pieces of brain tissue destroyed by the stroke.

Kirk spoke briefly to reporters last month on Election Day about his plans to return to Washington as he cast a ballot in suburban Chicago. He used a cane to walk and said that banning sewage dumping in the Great Lakes will be his priority for this Congress.

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