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Illinois Senator Climbed 41 Stories for Charity

Update Date: Nov 04, 2013 12:01 PM EST
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Illinois' Senator, Republican Mark Kirk climbed 41 stories in the Willis Tower for charity. Kirk's mini journey up the stairs was a part of the annual Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's' fundraiser, which aims to raise awareness and help stroke survivors rehabilitate.

Kirk, 54-years-old, is a stroke survivor. Since his stroke in January 2012, Kirk has been pushing for stroke-related legislature. At the beginning of this year, Kirk proposed three bills that would improve stroke survivors' access to rehabilitation care. The bills also pushed for a national standard of care and stressed the importance of helping stroke survivors return to their careers. Kirk stated that for him, the rehabilitation was relatively easily accessible. He received around 100 sessions of physical therapy and intensive care at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. However, he acknowledges that fact that a lot of people are not as fortunate as him to have the means to get care.

"When I was at RIC, I constantly was asking what happened to other, low-income citizens of Illinois," said Kirk reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The worst and lowest care you could receive is lying on the bed and watching TV. That's no way to move forward."

The CEO and president of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Dr. Joanne Smith, stated that insurance companies throughout the country vary on how much they will cover for rehabilitation costs. According to Kirk, his federal insurance was able to cover around 50 percent of his physical therapy session, which totaled 51 sessions. Medicaid patients within the same state only get four sessions covered by this government insurance. Not only do costs become a major issue in getting care, Smith stated that limited resources and expertise also affect the kind of care people receive.

Prior to his trek up the building, Kirk stated according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "About 900,000 Americans a year will suffer from stroke, and about a third of them will not return to work. For those 300,000 people, I don't want to throw them away. I don't want them to feel like they've been thrown away, and I think this stroke agenda will help us return many, many more Americans to work."

"In my case...it's obvious I had a better shot at getting back to work," Kirk added.

Last year, Kirk participated in this same event and climbed 37 stories, a number he wanted to and did beat this year. Even though Kirk has had a fast recovery, movement on the left side of his body is still limited and his speech has not fully recovered. Kirk hopes that many more stroke survivors will have better access to care in the near future. 

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