Sen. Mark Kirk’s neurosurgeon issued a letter declaring that the Republican has made a “full cognitive recovery” from a 2012 stroke that kept him out of the Senate for nearly a year, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reports.
The letter from Dr. Richard Fessler, who performed Kirk’s brain surgery after the stroke, noted the senator has also “made rapid improvements in his physical recovery.”
In his letter, which was written in July and obtained by the Sun-Times, Fessler noted that Kirk no longer has use of his left arm or hand and has only limited use of his left leg, which is strongest near his hip and weakest near his foot. As a result, Kirk uses a brace on his lower left leg and a cane.
The doctor said it was unlikely that Kirk, who turned 57 Thursday, will regain additonal range of motion on his left side, although he continues to undergo physical therapy to build strength.
Kirk’s stroke has also affected his speech, which is “occasionally halting” but much improved, according to Fessler. Additionally, the stroke didn’t affect the left side of the senator’s brain, which is responsible for cognitive and verbal functions. His vision in his left eye is, however, impaired.
Despite the stroke’s “lingering physical effects,” Fessler claimed Kirk is generally in good health. Nevertheless, the letter doesn’t include information on Kirk’s medications, the results of basic lab tests, his blood pressure or electrocardiogram results. It also doesn’t discuss what medical specialists Kirk has seen since the stroke.
Kirk's campaign manager Kevin Artl told the Sun-Times that the senator undergoes physical therapy and rehab 3-5 times per week and sometimes requires a staffer to assist him in Washington. Among other things, the staffer pushes the senator’s wheelchair, although Kirk reportedly doesn’t require 24-hour assistance.
The Republican senator is presumably releasing the information to quell speculation about the lasting effects of his stroke. Kirk's cognitive status has been called into question following some of his more controversial remarks, like when he referred to South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham as a “bro with no ho” last year.
Kirk is facing a tough bid for re-election against Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is also disabled. They both use canes and wheelchairs and sometimes require the assistance of attendants. Duckworth, who served in the Army National Guard, lost both her legs piloting a Black Hawk helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2004.
Duckworth’s campaign told the Sun-Times a medical report was being compiled on the congresswoman’s health, but wouldn’t say when it would be released. The paper has reportedly been requesting detailed records from both candidates since early this year.
Medical records have become a hot topic in the presidential race since Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton abruptly left Sunday's 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York after feeling “overheated.” Her doctor later revealed she was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. As a result, her campaign released additional medical records Wednesday. Clinton is 68 years old.
Clinton’s opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, discussed his health and shared results from a recent medical exam in a taped appearance with Dr. Oz Wednesday. Critics have urged the 80-year-old real estate magnate to release more thorough medical records.