CHICAGO
04/24/2012 02:18 pm ET

Mark Kirk Photo: First Post-Stroke Photo Of Illinois Senator Released

The office of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday released a photo of the 52-year-old senator, the first new photograph of the Illinois Republican since he suffered a major ischemic stroke just over three months ago.

The photo was released along with an update on the senator's condition, according to the Chicago Tribune. The report says Kirk is "mentally sharp" and "remains fully engaged in all aspects of his rehabilitation program."

Richard L. Harvey of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago added that Kirk "meets with his staff nearly every day to discuss policy issues and global current events."

Kirk will also reportedly be participating in an extensive research trial at the institute where he will take part in intense exercises including walking on stairs and a treadmill daily.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that friends and colleagues of Kirk say the senator has been determined in his rehabilitation efforts. He continues to have his eye on a return to being an active member of the U.S. Senate.

Lake County Federation President Alexander Stewart over the weekend told a crowd of more than 600 people in suburban Lincolnshire, Ill. that Kirk was speaking well and clearly during a recent meeting he had with the senator, Patch reports.

"He is very much on message," Stewart said according to Patch. "He is eager to get back to Washington and start serving the state again."

Stewart's comments echo those made earlier this month on the senator's condition by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren. Hultgren, after delivering the recovering senator's office's report on Illinois' financial health or lack thereof, said he was hearing positive news about Kirk's recovery.

"Everything I hear is very good, it's going to be a long process, but I know he's a fighter," Hultgren said, according to NBC Chicago.

Hultgren's comments arrived amid some speculation about Kirk's condition as his staff had kept any updates about the senator since he went into rehabilitation closely guarded, ABC Chicago previously reported.

Kirk, elected to President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in the fall of 2010, checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital on Jan. 21 after suffering dizziness and headaches. Doctors subsequently discovered a "carotid artery dissection" and he was transferred to Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital where tests revealed he had suffered a stroke. He then underwent emergency brain surgery where doctors removed an 8-inch by 4-inch section of bone from the right side of the senator's skull in order to relieve pressure.

In early February, Kirk transferred to the rehabilitation institute. Doctors previously said that they feared the stroke would impact movement on the senator's left side.

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