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Ill. Senator Returns to Capitol Hill After Stroke
PHOTO: In this Dec. 18, 2012 photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks about his recovery from a major stroke a year ago at his home in Highland Park, Ill.

AP Photo/Daily Herald, Bill Zars

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will walk up the steps of the Capitol Thursday morning as he returns to the Senate for the first time since he suffered a stroke early last year.

Nearly one year ago, doctors determined Kirk suffered an ischemic stroke after finding a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck. Kirk underwent surgery to reduce swelling around his brain and has gone through rehabilitation over the past year.

In an interview with the Daily Herald of suburban Chicago, Kirk said the idea of climbing those Capitol steps served as an inspiration for him during his recovery.

"I kept imagining going back to work," Kirk told the Herald, "and the irreducible physical amount of effort I had to put in."

Kirk's return to the Senate comes on the first day of the 113th Congress, but it will not be his first trip to Capitol Hill since his stroke. He returned to Capitol Hill in mid-December to hold meetings with his staff.

Kirk's staff has chronicled the Illinois senator's recovery efforts over the past year by sending updates, photos and videos. Kirk recorded a video last May showing progress he had made during his time at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"I'm walking again," Kirk said in the video, "leading to my hope to climb the 45 steps that my staff counted from the parking lot to the Senate front door to fight for the people of Illinois."

In November, Kirk climbed steps at Chicago's Willis Tower during a fundraiser.

Kirk has served in the Senate since 2010 when he won the seat formerly occupied by President Obama.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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