(CHICAGO) — The surgeon who performed the three-hour operation on Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Monday morning says that the senator will likely have permanent physical damage due to the stroke he suffered over the weekend.
“It will affect his ability to move his left arm, possibly his left leg and possibly involve some facial paralysis,” Dr. Richard Fessler, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said Monday.
Kirk suffered a stroke to the right side of his brain, which affects the left side of his body. The doctor said it is a good thing the stroke did not affect the left side of his brain, which controls the cognitive functions, such as speaking, understanding and thinking.
“He’s got a pretty good chance of continuing a very vibrant life,” Fessler said at a press conference in Chicago Monday. “Sen. Kirk’s job is cerebral and I believe the function he requires to do his job are going to be fine.”
Doctors though caution that Senator Kirk has a rough road to recovery ahead of him physically, describing this as a “crucial period.”
The senator remains sedated after a four-inch-by-eight-inch piece of his skull was removed Monday to keep the pressure off his brain due to swelling. He is still in intensive care while the brain swelling goes down. Once the swelling subsides, the piece of his skull can be put back in and the senator can start rehabilitation, which will be a matter of weeks and months, the doctors say.
“Senator Kirk is young, [is] very healthy and in good shape and he’s very strong, so all those things are in his favor,” his doctor said.
As members of the Senate returned Monday for their first day of the 2012 legislative session, thoughts and well wishes poured in from members of both parties.
Kirk was scheduled to participate in the call for bipartisan seating during Tuesday’s State of the Union address and was slated to sit with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia.
“While I’ll miss him at the State of Union tomorrow night, I promised Mark that I will keep his seat warm,” Manchin said Monday in a statement. “Knowing Mark, I am also confident that he will make a speedy recovery and I will do everything I can to support him and his family until he is able to join us back here in Washington.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio