Senator returns to Capitol Hill after debilitating stroke

(CBS News) On Thursday, Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois will join his fellow lawmakers as the 113th Congress convenes in Washington. For Kirk, the return to Capitol Hill comes after a grueling year of recovery following a debilitating stroke.

The 52-year-old, who succeeded President Obama as the junior senator from Illinois, was sidelined from governing when a massive stroke left him unable to walk just 11 months ago. After surgery, the left side of his body was still largely immobile and he faced a long stretch of therapy to re-learn how to walk and talk.

Within months, the senator made remarkable progress and shared his journey with his constituents online, updating them on milestones like walking on a treadmill for the first time and his hopes to "climb the 45 steps from the parking lot to the senate front door to fight for the people of Illinois."

This week, Kirk spoke to to CBS Chicago affiliate's Jay Levine about his long road back to the Senate floor.

"I honestly had doubts ... and ... at times because I was improving so rapidly I thought about this day a lot. I knew I could nail it," he said, explaining the ups and downs of rehab.

Looking ahead, Kirk added that his experience will shape his agenda in Washington. "The big moment for me will be when I get to see Sen. Tim Johnson who suffered from stroke here," he said. "I can't wait to bond with him so that hopefully we can be advocates for Americans who have survived stroke."