In this Oct. 25, 2012 photo, Zac Vawter practices walking with an experimental "bionic" leg at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, the 31-year-old software engineer signed up to become a research subject, helping test a trailblazing prosthetic leg that's controlled by his thoughts. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is breaking ground on a $550 million research hospital. Former patient U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk was among the dignitaries speaking Monday at the ceremony in Chicago.
Officials say the new hospital will be ready to open in 2016. It will be a 1.2 million-square-foot facility with 242 beds. The facility will have 900,000 square feet dedicated to clinical and research programs, nearly three times the current research space.
Kirk shared the stage with an 11-year-old stroke victim he befriended during rehabilitation. The boy, Jackson Cunningham of Oakwood, introduced Kirk and talked about how they've shared experiences.
Kirk was a patient at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago after his stroke last year. Kirk has credited researchers at the facility for accelerating his recovery.