M. Spencer Green, Associated Press
Dr. Richard Fessler, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who performed surgery on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. after he suffered a stroke, answers questions about the Senator's conditions at a news conference, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Chicago. Kirk, 52, checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital over the weekend before being transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where tests showed he had suffered a stroke. Kirk's office said he had a tear in the carotid artery on the right side of his neck. Carotid arteries carry blood to the brain; carotid tears are a common cause of strokes, which can involve blood clots traveling to the brain and causing bleeding there. The surgery was performed Sunday night.

CHICAGO — A Chicago neurosurgeon says Sen. Mark Kirk is speaking and doing better than doctors expected after emergency surgery following a weekend stroke.

Dr. Richard Fessler says the Illinois Republican is answering questions and is very aware of his surroundings while he is in intensive care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Fessler on Tuesday said Kirk has some facial paralysis and speaks with a slight slur. The doctor says Kirk appears eager to get back to work and has asked for his Blackberry.

Kirk is expected to remain in intensive care for several days as swelling goes down in his brain. Surgeons removed a piece of his skull to alleviate pressure from the swelling.

The stroke affected the senator's left side. Doctors say he has a difficult road ahead with regaining movement.