Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk improving after stroke

Marshall Cohen

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was breathing on his own, following commands and even asking to use his BlackBerry phone Tuesday after suffering a stroke and undergoing brain surgery earlier this week.

However, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital neurosurgeon who operated on the senator said Tuesday during a news conference that Kirk has “slight facial paralysis on his left side” and will remain in the intensive care unit for up to a week.

Kirk also showed “very little” motion in his right hand and spoke with a slight slur due to some facial paralysis.

“With therapy that usually gets better,” Dr. Richard Fessler said in the news conference. “The recovery process and the learning process to re-establish your life following a stroke is a long process.”

Fessler, who is also a professor of neurosurgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, added that the segment of Kirk’s skull that was removed during the surgery will be replaced once the swelling reduces.

Kirk’s family released a statement Tuesday night thanking their “amazing family and friends” for the “outpouring of support…received over the last couple of days.”

The junior senator’s office will continue its normal functions and services while Kirk recovers, staffers said.

– Marshall Cohen