WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Johnson's Washington office is being made wheelchair-accessible in preparation for his return from rehabilitation for a brain hemorrhage.
When Johnson will come back to the Senate is still not clear. The South Dakota Democrat has been in a private, undisclosed rehabilitation facility since February, when he was released from the George Washington University Hospital in Washington. He is not able to walk and has limited use of his right side.
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said Wednesday that the senator would be in the rehabilitation facility "for a while longer" and would undergo outpatient therapy before returning to the Senate. She would not speculate on how long that will take.
When he does return, Fisher said, Johnson is expected to use an electric scooter to get around. Staff and Capitol workers are widening aisles and doorways in his office, as well as the area around his desk, and Johnson's personal bathroom will be refurbished to make it easier for the senator to use.
The renovations are expected to take several weeks.
"Everyone on the staff is extremely excited," she said. "For us, it's the visual sign of him returning."
Pictures of Johnson released by his office last month showed him looking pounds lighter and sitting in a wheelchair at the rehabilitation facility, his right arm propped on a pillow. Fisher said Johnson is learning to write with his left hand.
Johnson's illness and absence from the Senate have highlighted his party's one-seat advantage in the chamber, and both parties are closely watching his progress. He is up for re-election in 2008 and has not said whether he will run.
In his absence, several of his Senate colleagues have been helping him raise money for re-election. He raised more than $660,000 in the first three months of the year with their help, all while he was in the hospital and in rehabilitation. He has raised a total of $2.2 million since his last re-election in 2002.
The senator suffered a brain hemorrhage Dec. 13. He was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.