Nightly News   |  May 11, 2012

Sen. Mark Kirk films his rehabilitation

The unusual glimpse into the politician's recovery may serve as an inspiration to others who have had to fight back from a devastating illness. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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>>> tonight, we have a story about one man's grueling recovery from a stroke that may serve as an inspiration to all of the millions of others who have had to fight back from a devastating illness or who may be in the fight right now. the man is illinois senator mark ker kirk , who we knew had suffered a stroke in january. what we didn't know until now was just how serious it was. we now know because he is showing us on videotape. our report from nbc's kevin tibbles.

>> senator mark kirk 's latest battle is not political.

>> i suffered a stroke on the 21st of january.

>> since then, the 52-year-old illinois republican has worked tirelessly to regain some of the lost mobility to his left side. releasing this video documenting his tear at the rehabilitation institute of chicago with therapy involved intense physical activity.

>> you want to get better at piano, practice peono.

>> he's also fitted with electronic sensors so therapists can improve movement using computer images like these.

>> nice work.

>> this state of the art facility teaches stroke victims to start using other parts of their brain.

>> the tissue resident in the brain that is uninjured has the capability to increase its function.

>> this inside glimpse into senator kirk 's recovery is becoming less unusual. in the past, politicians would do everything within their power to conceal any health issues from the electorate. president woodrow wilson suffered a stroke. franklin roosevelt was stricken with polio, and john f. kennedy battled agonizing back pain, all kept secret from the public but in today's world of blogs and tweets, much has changed.

>> i think public figures recognizing that are more willing to be open and get ahead of the curve by letting everybody know what is going on.

>> for his constituents, a window into kirk 's rehabilitation and his ultimate goal.

>> to climb the 45 steps that my staff counted from the parking lot to the senate front door.

>> making his way back to the capitol one difficult step at a time. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago.