WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Johnson is reading news clippings and starting to do some office work from the hospital, almost two months after suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage.
"At this point, he has requested more contact with office and is looking for updates from staff," his office said in a statement Friday.
Spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said the South Dakota Democrat is starting slowly.
"We do not anticipate him back (in the Senate) for several weeks," Fisher said. "We are bringing work to him rather than him coming to us. His first priority still is rehabilitation."
Johnson has been undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy since he was transferred to rehabilitation from intensive care at George Washington University Hospital last month. He recently began to read and speak in full sentences, according to statements from his doctors.
Part of Johnson's therapy has been to deal with weakness on his right side. Doctors have said Johnson showed that weakness when he arrived at the hospital Dec. 13.
He was rushed to the hospital after becoming disoriented during a phone call with reporters and underwent emergency surgery hours later. He was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.
Johnson was sedated and on a ventilator for several weeks, due to fluid that developed in his lungs as a result of the initial hemorrhage. He was upgraded from critical to fair condition on Jan. 9.
The senator is making decisions about his health care and expressing opinions on his daily activities, the hospital's chief of rehabilitation, Dr. Philip Marion, said in a statement released by Johnson's office.
"He continues to initiate more conversations and questions," Marion said. "His therapy now includes computer exercises and problem-solving activities."
Fisher said recovery is still expected to take some time, saying, "This is not going to be full speed yet."
Johnson's wife, Barbara, said the family is impressed with his progress: "Even though there is a long road ahead to complete recovery, we feel that we have gotten 'our Tim' back."
The senator's sudden illness raised questions about the Democrats' one-vote majority in the Senate. South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike Rounds, would appoint a replacement if Johnson's seat were vacated by his death or resignation.