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GOP Sen. Kirk releases second video message after stroke

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FILE: Dec. 16, 2010: Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk talks to the media on Capitol Hill. in Washington (AP)

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January, released a second video message Sunday showing improved mobility and speech and detailing his work to find a replacement for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

"I wanted to make sure we could update the people of Illinois on my progress against this stroke," the 52-year-old Kirk said in the video. "The progress I have made has been very encouraging -- learning to walk again and improving my speaking skills."

The three-minute video features footage of the Republican walking on a treadmill and up stairs under the close supervision of a rehabilitation specialist but without a cane he had previously used. It shows him walking faster than a previous video, aided by a harness extending above his shoulders. He speaks at times with a stutter and sometimes struggles to form words during the video, which was filmed both at his Fort Sheridan, Ill., home and at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Kirk said he recently finished a nine-week mobility study at the institute where he walked nearly 15 miles and climbed 145 flights of stairs. He said a high point of his recovery was walking up all the stairs of the institute and that it was good to be at home during his recovery. He was moved to outpatient rehabilitation in May.

The senator suffered a major stroke on Jan. 21 and underwent emergency surgery that included the temporary removal of a 4-by-8-inch piece of his skull to allow for swelling. Surgeons also removed two small pieces of brain tissue destroyed by the stroke.

Doctors have said the stroke was expected to limit movement on his left side and perhaps in his facial muscles, though they expected him to make a full mental recovery.

The video footage released Sunday largely shows movement only of Kirk's right hand: making a phone call, sipping coffee, using a rail along stairs and gesturing. His left side, mainly his shoulder, appears to droop lower than the right.

Kirk said he's in touch with his office several times daily by phone and email and is helping Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, find a replacement for Fitzgerald, who announced his resignation in May after more than a decade.

Kirk said that he and Durbin have formed a bipartisan panel to review applications. Generally, U.S. senators recommend nominees to the president and it takes months for confirmation once a nomination is sent to the Senate.

"I'm working with Senator Durbin right now to make sure we have a U.S. Attorney who is just as good as Patrick Fitzgerald," Kirk said. He added that Fitzgerald was "one of the best public servants we have ever seen in the state of Illinois."

The video also shows footage of Kirk's visits with Illinois Republican U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert and Bob Dold and Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

"It's been really touching to have these visits from colleagues who come all the way from Washington," Kirk said. "They have been really morale boosters."