Mark Kirk expected to return to work Thursday

Not that you can call the Senate “work” anymore, but Mark Kirk, who suffered a debilitating stroke last February that targeted the entire left side of his body, will return to the Senate for the first time in almost a year on Thursday.

While Illinois’ delegation to the U.S. House is noteworthy in its inexperience, the state’s representation in the Senate is split between one of the most powerful members and a first-termer recovering from a serious illness.

Democrat Dick Durbin ranks No. 2 in the Senate, while Republican Mark Kirk has not cast a vote since suffering a major stroke 11 months ago. Kirk has been working on his rehabilitation and is expected to make a dramatic return to Congress on Thursday, perhaps walking up the Capitol steps.

He’s spent the last year undergoing grueling physical therapy and re-learning how to walk, and despite the physical alterations he now has to compensate for, Illinois junior Senator is probably still the most astute of his co-workers. As his stroke occurred on the right side of his brain, he is still completely able to speak, think, read and write. He still needs to use a cane and is now blind in one quadrant of his left eye. But miraculously, he survived the stroke, a near-death experience, and a second blood clot in his leg that could have taken him out for good.

Although he’s spent most of the last six months holed up in his DC townhouse with a caregiver and what the Daily Herald describes as an “aggressive black cat,” Kirk has apparently been slowly building up his workload and has been taking video-conference briefings with staffers. With the help of Illinois’ other Senator, Dick Durbin, Kirk has been passing ideas forward, particularly on the subject of foreign affairs, an Durbin will be there to help Kirk up the steps on Thursday.

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