WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a severe stroke in January, met Thursday with Rep. Judy Biggert, who said he is “back on his game” and even wisecracking about his treadmill — which he calls his “dreadmill.”
Biggert, a Republican from Hinsdale, met with Kirk for 75 minutes at his home in Highland Park. She said that since the stroke she had talked to him once by phone, but this was her first face-to-face visit.
“He looks great and we had a great conversation,” she told the Tribune on Friday. “He’s back on his game. He’s doing well. I think he’s eager to get back, but I imagine that he will return (to the Capitol) whenever the doctors tell him he can.
“He’s just the same old Mark. Same old person. And he always has a lot to say … and he had a lot to discuss.”
Kirk’s office on Friday released a statement from the senator on his recovery.
“I am grateful to Dr. George Hornby, the physical therapists and other personnel of the walking research trial at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for helping me to advance my mobility and independence over the past nine weeks,” Kirk’s statement said. “With their encouragement and help, within the research trial I walked an average of 3,677 steps per day, a total of 14.79 miles over ground and on the treadmill, and up 145 flights of stairs.”
The Kirk statement did not detail what he discussed with Biggert. She said their conversation focused on “politics — who’s doing what.” They also talked about Kirk’s Women’s Advisory Board, which Biggert addressed Friday in Naperville in his stead.
She, like others, could not predict when Kirk would be back in Washington. He has not made any public appearances in the six months since he was stricken, nor has he said when he hopes to return to the Senate floor.
Biggert said Kirk is meeting with his aides “every night after his physical therapy.” She did not know if therapy was occurring on weekends.
Kirk, 52, suffered an ischemic stroke Jan. 21 and underwent three brain surgeries at Northwestern Memorial Hospital before being transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He is being treated there as an outpatient and is relearning to walk, according to a video his aides released in the spring. Eric Elk, a Kirk aide, on Thursday characterized the lawmaker’s stroke as “severe.”
Biggert said the fluency of his speech was “great” and that his mood was “great for somebody who’s been through that. It’s positive. He’s really looking forward to being back in the game.”
An aide to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that Durbin had spoke to Kirk a number of times by phone — most recently July 19 — but had not visited with him since the stroke and had not been told when he planned to return to Washington.
Rep. Peter Roskam, a Republican from Wheaton, said Friday that he had neither seen nor spoken to Kirk since the stroke and had no medical insights beyond what he had read. “I don’t know what his capabilities are or what the physicians are saying his return time should be,” Roskam said.
Kirk was elected to the Senate in 2010 after nearly 10 years representing Chicago’s North Shore in the House. Biggert, 74, entered the House more than 13 years ago and faces Democrat Bill Foster, a former House member who lives in Naperville, in the Nov. 6 election.
Biggert said her meeting with Kirk came after the House adjourned for the week and an earlier planned meeting “didn’t work out.”
Tribune reporter Todd Lighty in Chicago contributed.
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