Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois)
By Ann Rubin
St. Louis (KSDK) - Illinois Senator Mark Kirk may be left with permanent physical damage following a massive stroke.
Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago are treating him.
"I think his prospects for a full mental recovery are very good. I think his prospects for a full physical recovery, especially on the left side of his body are not great," said Dr. Richard Fessler.
Early Monday, surgeons removed a four inch by eight inch section of his skull, to relieve pressure on his brain.
Here in St. Louis, Dr. Colin Derdeyn, Director of the Stroke, Cerebral and Vascular Center at the Washington University Medical Center, explained the seriousness of the procedure.
"We call it medically a hemi-craniectomy, removing half of the skull, half of the cranium. It's a life-saving procedure and it's a last ditch procedure generally," said Dr. Derdeyn.
And for those who survive strokes, the road to recovery isn't easy.
Kathy Howard suffered her stroke four years ago.
"Just like Senator Kirk, mine was a right-sided ischemic stroke. So my entire left-side was affected," said Howard.
With the help of the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, she's regained use of her left hand and leg. She started a group, the ABC Brigade, to promote stroke awareness. They do a 12 mile walk each year.
"I do that mainly to show stroke survivors that. Do not give up," said Howard.
That's her message to Senator Kirk: that rebounding will take courage, perseverance, and a willingness to fight.
"He just has to maybe allow himself to have that day where he's like ah this is never going to get better, knowing that the next day he has to put that warrior face back on and get to work," said Howard.
Doctors say if you have the sudden onset of weakness in an arm or a leg or difficulty speaking or seeing, those are signs of a stroke, and you need to call 911 immediately. They say you're most likely to make a full recovery if you get treatment within four and a half hours.