Mark Kirk returned to the Senate in an emotional moment for everyone after he suffered a debilitating stroke almost a year ago. As many of you know, I am no fan of Kirk's, but a stroke like the one he had is a life-altering experience. Via the Illinois Daily Herald:
"A thing goes off in your head that this is the end," he remembered.
Kirk's life and outlook would be dramatically changed, the stroke serving as a defining moment that he said deepened his faith and altered his sense of purpose.
Sitting at the dining room table of his suburban townhouse, his left arm slack, Kirk gestures emphatically with his right hand as he says the experience made him resolve "to never, ever give up."
He is determined "to just keep going, even when things feel like we're at the end here. Which is what the ICU was like for me."
This Thursday, Jan. 3, Kirk plans to climb the 45 steps of the U.S. Capitol without the aid of a handrail.
The goal-driven 53-year-old visualized those steps as a source of inspiration as he toiled through the physical therapy sessions at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago that left him exhausted, sore and, at times, nauseated.
It's worth noting that those physical therapy sessions he received were a luxury most of us would not have had. Chicago Tribune:
Medical professionals who treated U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Thursday that the Illinois legislator received 300 to 400 therapy sessions during his ongoing recovery from his January 2012 stroke.
The intensive treatment, administered over 10 or 11 months in inpatient and outpatient settings, included 100 to 200 sessions of physical therapy, 100 sessions of occupational therapy and 100 sessions of speech therapy, officials from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago said at a news conference in Washington.
When asked how Kirk paid for the extensive therapies, his spokesman Lance Trover said Thursday that Kirk has the same health care insurance options available to other federal employees and has incurred major out-of-pocket expenses, which have affected his savings and retirement.
According to the medical professionals, 40 of Kirk's 300 to 400 sessions were not billable because they were part of a medical trial in which the senator took part. But the rest of the sessions appeared to be well beyond the number that would be covered for most Americans under commercial and government-subsidized health insurance plans.
"Generally, most plans have a cap of around 20 (sessions) for each of those three categories, which are subject to review by a medical management team," said Dale Moyer, president of Chicago-based Incentovate LLC, which advises employers on compensation and benefit plans.
Senator Kirk stood up on the Senate floor in March, 2011 and argued for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It seems that his attitude has softened toward Medicaid recipients, at least.
In an interview published Wednesday, Kirk said that most Illinois residents insured through the low-income health program would be eligible for just 11 rehabilitation sessions following a stroke.
"Had I been limited to that I would have had no chance to recover like I did. So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face," Kirk told the Chicago Sun Times. "I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke," Kirk said.
Let's hope his attitude about health care in general has been changed. We could use a Republican with a heart for people in need of health care in the Senate, but he might have to change parties.