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Doctors allowing Rep. Giffords to attend shuttle launch

HOUSTON (AP) - Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords can fly to
Florida this week to watch her astronaut husband rocket into space
as commander of the space shuttle Endeavour, but she will return
shortly after the launch to resume rehabilitation, her doctors in
Houston confirmed Monday.
The doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann said Giffords is
"medically able" to travel and that they view the trip to Cape
Canaveral as part of her rehabilitation from a gunshot wound to the
"Medically, there is no reason she could not travel safely to
Florida to participate in this incredible event with her husband,"
said Dr. Dong Kim, director of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute
at Memorial Hermann.
The last time Giffords flew was when she was transported on a
private jet from the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., that treated her
immediately after the Jan. 8 shooting to Houston, where she has
been undergoing intensive rehabilitation. But this time, her flight
is not an ambulance transport, Kim added.
"She is medically able and well enough to travel without
additional risks," said Kim, who also serves as professor and
chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of
Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School.
ABC and CBS News initially reported on Sunday that doctors had
given Giffords the green light to attend the launch.
Being there for the Endeavour's final flight - commanded by
Giffords' husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly - was a goal for the
congresswoman and her family.
"Attending the launch is an opportune time for her to continue
her therapy progression," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, lead
physician of the brain injury rehabilitation team and chief medical
officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Francisco also is chairman of the
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UTHealth.
"We routinely allow patients outside visits as part of their
rehabilitation," he said in a statement. "She has made remarkable
progress in her rehabilitation, and we saw no reason why she could
not travel safely to Florida."
Still, doctors said Giffords will return to Houston to resume
the rehabilitation "shortly after the launch" and emphasized that
"provisions have been made with NASA regarding Giffords' care
while she is in Florida."
The launch is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday.
"This is great news. Attending the launch is something the
congresswoman has been working toward and something that's
important for her, her family and her staff," Giffords spokesman
C.J. Karamargin said. "It's another significant milestone in her
President Barack Obama and the first family also are scheduled
to watch the launch, although it's unclear if they will watch it
with Giffords.
Families view launches at Kennedy Space Center from a restricted
area, and there are no plans for Giffords to make a public
Giffords went to Kelly's last launch in 2008, when he commanded
the space shuttle Discovery. The two married in 2007.
Giffords was shot in the head while at a meet-and-greet with
constituents in the parking lot of a Tucson, Ariz., shopping
center. Besides the congresswoman, six people were killed and 13
were wounded.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges
stemming from the attack and is in custody.
Giffords has not been seen publicly since the shooting and has
spent the past three months relearning how to speak, walk and take
care of herself. She has been singing - as part of musical therapy
- asking for her favorite foods and visiting with family, friends
and her rabbi.
Kelly returned to training for the shuttle launch in February
after taking time off to be at his wife's hospital bedside.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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