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November 4, 2013

Kirk says all stroke patients deserve equal care

The Associated Press

CHICAGO — Stroke patients in the U.S. deserve equal access to high-quality rehabilitation that optimizes their chances of leading healthy, productive lives, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Sunday, outlining what he calls his “stroke agenda” to eliminate disparities in care.

The Highland Park Republican, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, said he has helped introduce legislation to set a national standard of care, expand access to high-quality rehabilitation and help stroke victims return to work.

Kirk, 54, was at Chicago’s Willis Tower to participate in a stair-climb fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he underwent intensive physical therapy that pushed patients harder than traditional therapy to see if it led to a quicker recovery. Last year, he climbed 37 stories at Willis Tower and said Sunday he was “going to try like hell to beat my record.”

He also said all stroke patients should have a chance to go back to work, but only about one-third do so.

“I don’t want them to feel like they’ve been thrown away,” said Kirk, adding that adopting a national goal of helping stroke patients return to work “will serve our country very well.”

Kirk, who sometimes uses a wheelchair, returned to Washington — climbing the 45 steps at the Capitol — almost a year after suffering a stroke that limited movement on the left side.

Dr. Joanne Smith, president and CEO of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, said care varies widely across the country.

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