Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will face a prolonged recovery process after suffering from a stroke on Saturday, but his office will continue to function in an official capacity. His bigger duties, however, will be taken off the table.
On Saturday, Senator Kirk checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital, where doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck. He was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where further tests revealed that he had suffered an ischemic stroke, accord to a statement from Kirk's Illinois office.
The 52-year-old first term senator won a 2010 special election for President Barack Obama's seat by a 2-percentage-point margin. He had served in the House of Representatives for a decade before switching to the Senate. During what doctors estimate could be a long recovery, Kirk's staff can fill in his many roles in a pseudo official capacity.
The minutiae of legislative work, responding to constituent complaints and handling in-state issues where possible, will still be on the table. But on the Senate floor, his staff will be wholly helpless.
Staff members cannot vote on his behalf or voice opinions. Kirk was known for his strong stance on sanctioning Iran.
As Senator Kirk begins his recovery, his office will remain open to constituents, said a statement from the lawmaker's office. The staff will continue to provide the same level of service and dedication to the residents of Illinois as they have for the last year.
Kirk's recovery from what is an admittedly perilous condition will be grueling. Doctors removed a 4-by-8 inch chunk of his skull to alleviate pressure on his brain. Once the swelling subsides, a clearer understanding of the extent of the damage will emerge.
According to Dr. Richard Fessler, who handled the Senator's procedure at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Kirk may experience paralysis on his left side but be able to fully function mentally.
The prospects for his full physical recovery, particularly on the left side of his body, are not great, he said, according to the AP.
The prolonged absence of an ailing lawmaker has some precedent, according to the AP. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., missed nine months in office after suffering from a brain hemorrhage that left him in a coma and limited his speech and mobility. During that time, the senator's chief of staff Drey Samuelson kept the office humming but was limited in what could actually be done.
There's a vacuum when the guy that's the center of the office isn't there, and isn't there for nine months, Samuelson told the AP. I had a pretty good idea, but I'm not the senator and I wanted to be sure that I knew what he wanted to do.
The stroke on the right side of Kirk's brain would affect the motor skills of his body's left side. Fessler was optimistic about a recovery that would allow the senator to function in office.
Since it's the right side of the brain and not the left side of the brain, he's got a pretty good chance, Dr. Fessler said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most of our cognitive functions-that is, our ability to speak, understand and have higher order of thinking- are located on the left side of the brain, and I believe that when we are all through this, the left side of his brain will be fine.