Gabrielle Giffords Visits Hometown, Another Milestone

Posted on June 20, 2011

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LAUREN LINDER

*UPDATE*

Representative Gabrielle Giffords arrived in Tuscon, her hometown, Friday with her husband Mark E. Kelly and close family.

Giffords’s staff wrote on her Twitter, “Wheels down Tucson. Gabrielle & Mark looking forward to a beautiful weekend.”

The airplane circled parts of her congressional district, the blazed areas near Sierra Vista, before touching ground at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Giffords wanted to “see firsthand the devastation down there near Fort Huachuca,” Kelly said.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Kelly considered his wife’s first trip home a major step in her recovery. “After everything she’s been through, this was a milestone. It was motivational for her to drive through the district and see some of the people she represents and see how things are,” Kelly said.

The short weekend was spent riding downtown and reuniting with staffers, including Ron Barber, who was injured from the shooting. “They were a little teary, hugging each other and just really excited to see each other,” Kelly said. They “did a little comparison of injuries,” he added.

On Sunday, Giffords’s family had a Father’s Day breakfast and by 11 a.m., they were on their way back to Houston, where Giffords plans to continue her rehabilitation as an outpatient while living in her husband’s League City home.

Giffords now knows that six people were killed and 12 were wounded in the Arizona shooting, but she does not know that her staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, and her friend, federal Judge John Roll, were among those dead, Kelly said.

Kelly and other close friends and family members are slowly disclosing details of the devastating event to Giffords in order to allow her to focus on her recovery.

Giffords continues to impress her husband with her gradual improvements in her speaking capabilities. “As far as what she remembers and comprehends, at times I feel she’s 100 percent,” Kelly said. “Her communication skills are getting better every week. Six months from now we are all going to be amazed at where she is.”

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LAUREN LINDER

UPDATE

Today Representative Gabrielle Giffords was released from the Houston rehabilitation center where she has been undergoing intensive therapy following a shooting in early January.

While she readjusts to her home in League City, TX, Giffords will continue her daily rehab as an outpatient. She will also have an aid staying with her 24/7.

Giffords’s doctors and husband, Mark E. Kelly, believe that her move from the hospital represents a significant step in her recuperation and can provide encouragement to reclaim her old life.

“Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her,” Kelly said. He added that being with her family everyday after therapy will help further her progress.

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Representative Gabrielle Giffords is not letting a bullet wound to her brain get in the way of her smile.

Two photographs of Giffords were posted to her Facebook page early Sunday. These are the first visible images of the congresswoman since the January 8 shooting in Arizona which killed six people and injured 13, including Giffords.

The photos, taken in May by P.K. Weis, show Giffords smiling in the rehabilitation hospital’s courtyard after her husband, astronaut Mark E. Kelly, launched into space. The next day Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery.

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“It was very inspiring to see how much she had recovered in four and a half months. I was excited to see her and to see her smile. She was glad to see me, was in a good mood, smiling and laughing and seemed to enjoy the experience. I certainly did, too,” Weis said.

In the photos Giffords exhibits few noticeable signs of the shooting, but her appearance is different, with short dark hair. One familiar characteristic is her still optimistic wide grin.

“The photos reveal an upbeat image of Gabrielle Giffords. When you see the pictures you see that she has progressed in leaps and bounds. When they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, if ever that was true, it is true here,” C.J. Karamargin, Giffords spokesman, told PEOPLE.

Giffords’s Chief of Staff, Pia Carusone, announced Friday that Giffords is expected to be released at the end of the month. Her doctors and family are considering all of the factors necessary to make the right decision. “We’re looking at before the end of the month. We’re looking at early July. We don’t have a date,” Carusone said Friday.

Giffords’ release from the Houston rehab, where she has been undergoing daily intensive therapy, will signify a crucial advancement in her recovery. However, Giffords has a long road ahead of her with months of speech, occupational and physical therapy outside of the hospital.

While Carusone remains positive about Giffords’ release, in an interview published Thursday by The Arizona Republic, she presented a less optimistic view of her boss. “Her words are back more and more now, but she’s still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing. Add it all together and she’s able to express the basics of what she wants or needs. But when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that’s where she’s had the trouble,” Carusone said.

Time will only tell whether Giffords will be able to resume her old life and position on Capitol Hill.

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Posted in: National