CHICAGO (CBS) -- U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's personal physician, Dr. Jay Alexander, was the first doctor to assess the senator's symptoms on Saturday. He also helped make the decision that surgery was needed to remove a piece of Kirk's skull and relieve the pressure from swelling on his brain after Kirk suffered a stroke.
Alexander, a cardiologist, recounted the 12 hours in which Kirk's life dramatically changed this weekend during an interview with CBS 2's Derrick Blakley.
Alexander and Kirk are also friends and Alexander fondly remembered Kirk's dedication, enthusiasm and warmth.
"I turned 60 about two weeks ago and he was at my birthday party and he was full of life and happy and we were joking," Alexander said.
But Kirk wasn't joking when he called Alexander on Saturday while driving, complaining of serious symptoms.
"He felt light-headed, he felt like he might pass out and … noticed a change in his vision, where we was seeing white spots flickering in front of his eyes," Alexander said.
At the time, Alexander was on duty at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, and he asked Kirk to meet him there. Alexander ordered a CT angiogram, which revealed a dissection, or tear in an artery supplying blood to Kirk's brain.
"As blood passes through it, it pushes … that tear further up the artery and eventually causes the artery to actually occlude, or block," Alexander said.
By 3 p.m. Saturday, Kirk was admitted to Lake Forest, and placed on bed rest and blood thinners. But by 9 p.m., his condition worsened and Alexander suspected he was in the middle of a stroke.
"He was showing fluctuating neurological signs. His numbness and tingling was much more intense on the left side of his body," Alexander said.
Kirk was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago on Sunday. Alexander rode with Kirk in the ambulance, holding Kirk's hand.
"I kept talking about, you know, the things that are good about him; which is that he was healthy and young and that he could handle this," Alexander said.
That's still what alexander believes. He also said that Kirk could have done little to anticipate or avert the stroke.
"This was just one of those life events that you can't predict, nor can you probably prevent," Alexander said.
Alexander said he's sure Kirk will suffer a bout of depression over his condition at some point, but he's equally sure Kirk will regroup and work hard to regain as much of his physical abilities as he possibly can.
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