Monday, June 13, 2011

Shooting victim U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords could leave hospital in June

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (pictured) could leave her Houston hospital as soon as this month an aide said Sunday, hours after the release of new photos showing the congresswoman smiling five months after she was shot in the head.

"What these pictures show is a resilient woman with a positive attitude who's made tremendous progress," said C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Ms. Giffords.

But Ms. Giffords struggles with speech, and her political future remains unclear, Mr. Karamargin said.

The new photos—posted on Ms. Giffords's Facebook page—gave the public the first real look at the Arizona Democrat since the Jan. 8 shooting rampage at a Tucson-area supermarket where Ms. Giffords hosted an event to meet constituents.

Ms. Giffords is smiling in the two photos, one with her mother, Gloria, by her side. Her hair is shorn, and a slight indentation appears on the left side of her head. Her left eye also appears smaller.

The photos were taken May 17, before Ms. Giffords had surgery to repair her skull. Mr. Karamargin said she looks "even better now" and continues to make progress.

No date has been set for Ms. Giffords's release from TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where she has been living during her rehabilitation. But Mr. Karamargin said "the next phase of her recovery is outpatient treatment and we're hoping that will happen by the end of the month."

Ms. Giffords would remain in the Houston area to be close to her doctors and continue therapy, Mr. Karamargin said. Ms. Giffords's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has a home in the area.

The photos were released amid a flood of new details about Ms. Giffords's condition and her political future. Over the last few days, a picture has emerged of the 41-year-old as a woman making impressive strides, but who faces serious challenges as she recovers from a severe brain injury.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords releases new photos of herself on Facebook page as she continues to recover from a gunshot wound to her head. Video courtesy Reuters.
.Aides have said Ms. Giffords struggles to communicate verbally, and no decision has been made on whether she will seek re-election. She has until May 2012 to decide.

"There's no question in my mind that she can communicate what she's thinking and what she wants...but sometimes getting the words out is a bit of a challenge," Mr. Karamargin said.

Ms. Giffords "misses Tucson very much and wants to come home," but no firm plans have been made for a Tucson visit, Mr. Karamargin said.

Her office has continued to serve constituents, and last week an energy bill co-sponsored by Ms. Giffords was reintroduced by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall.

She keeps up on political news, and is aware of the three large wildfires roaring through Arizona, said Mr. Karamargin, who visited with her in early June. Last week, her staff sang "Happy Birthday" to her over the phone to celebrate her 41st birthday on June 8. "She was delighted," Mr. Karamargin said.

Mr. Karamargin said he was unaware if she had been informed that her accused shooter, Jared Loughner, was recently found incompetent to stand trial.

Mr. Loughner is charged with attempting to assassinate Ms. Giffords, as well as with the shootings of 12 others who were wounded, and the murders of 6—including a 9-year-old girl.

The release of the photos prompted an outpouring of messages and well-wishes on Ms. Gifffords's Facebook page.

"Wow! I saw her at the very end of March, and even then, Gabby was all there, her smile, her personality. And she looks even better now," Arizona state senator Linda Lopez posted on Ms. Giffords's Facebook page. Another post simply said: "Beautiful."