Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke last weekend, recently returned from a five-day official trip to Poland, and a congressman who accompanied him said he showed no sign of illness during the trip — just the opposite.

"He was vibrant, perky, all fire, ready to go," said Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat who joined the Republican senator on the trip ending Jan. 14.

The two lawmakers were in Poland to meet with top officials on U.S. missile defense, the visa-waiver program and other issues. Quigley said overseas trips "can be taxing. There are long flights, you don't get a lot of sleep and you turn right around."

For 21 years, John Porter held the House seat that Kirk won in 2000, representing Chicago's north suburbs. And Kirk was his chief of staff. Like many, Porter said Monday that Kirk's stroke "was a shock" because he was "so vital."

He recalled that while Kirk was his chief of staff — "a full-time-and-a-half job to start with" — Kirk attended Georgetown Law School at night to get his degree. "So you know what a hard-charger he was," said Porter, a partner with the Washington law firm of Hogan Lovells.

"I think Mark's been quite attentive to his health," Porter said. "He's always pushed himself hard, but I think he's been very careful with his diet and trying to do the right things and get exercise, and you just never know."

"We all feel, to a person, that he will make a strong recovery," he said. "He is young. He is in good condition. He prides himself on his service in the Naval Reserve. Stays fit to serve our country in that capacity as well as in the United States Senate.

"He has a tough, steep hill ahead of him, but he is up to the task."

Kirk had planned to sit with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia at Tuesday night's State of the Union address as an expression of bipartisanship. Manchin, in a statement, said: "While I'll miss him at the State of Union … I promised Mark that I will keep his seat warm."

kskiba@tribune.com