Doctor: Kirk doing ‘better than expected’
Sen. Mark Kirk is alert, answering questions and following commands after having a stroke over the weekend, his neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Fessler said today.
“He’s doing better than I expected he would be doing at this point,” Fessler said at a news conference at Northwestern University in Chicago. “He is completely oriented and he follows commands very briskly.”
Doctors have removed Kirk’s breathing tube and put him on a light sedative. Although he remains in serious condition, Fessler said he is “answering questions appropriately and very quickly.”
“He asked for his BlackBerry yesterday,” Fessler said. “I’m very happy with his progress and where his condition sits right now.”
He said Kirk “has acknowledged who I am and what’s going on around him and responded to the questions I’ve asked him.”
Fessler stressed, however, that the senator still faces a long recovery.
He is moving his left side “very little” and has slight left-sided facial paralysis that has caused his speech to be slurred, Fessler said.
“With therapy that usually gets better,” Fessler said, But “the recovery process and the learning process to re-establish your life following a stroke is a long process.”
The 52-year-old North Shore politician underwent a three-hour operation that ended early Monday in which surgeons removed part of his skull to relieve pressure caused by swelling on the right side of his brain, Fessler said Monday.
The surgery came about 36 hours after the senator called his internist complaining of seeing white flecks, numbness in his left arm and unusual sensations in his left leg, according to Dr. Jay Alexander, a cardiologist at NorthShore University Health System Medical Group.
The severity of Kirk’s illness was surprising, given his age, physical fitness and regimen as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer who still spends time in the Pentagon war room. Disclosure of the senator’s condition prompted an outpouring of prayers and well-wishes that crossed party lines in Washington and Illinois.