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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords released from hospital

HOUSTON (AP) - Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was released from
a Houston hospital on Wednesday, five months after being shot in
the head during a political event.
Giffords will move in with her husband - astronaut Mark Kelly -
who lives in League City, a Houston suburb near Johnson Space
Center. She will continue therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann, where
she has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation since late
January.
Giffords, who was shot in the left side of her head and has been
struggling to re-learn how to speak and walk, will be assisted by a
24-hour home health care provider, according to a statement from
the hospital.
"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside,"
Kelly said in the statement. "Living and working in a rehab
facility for five months straight has been especially challenging
for her. She will still go to TIRR each day but from now on, when
she finishes rehab, she will be with her family."
Giffords' release from the hospital was met with excitement by
her staff, including Ron Barber, who also survived the shooting at
a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people died
and a dozen others were wounded in the Jan. 8 attack.
"When I went home from the hospital after surgery, I was so
nervous, but boy it's wonderful to be home in your own
surroundings, to be able to have things on your own schedule,"
Barber said. "I'm sure it'll be uplifting and healing for her,
too."
Giffords underwent surgery last month to replace a piece of her
skull that was removed shortly after the shooting to allow her
brain to swell. Until the surgery, she wore a helmet to protect her
head.
"Gabby has recovered well from the surgery," said neurosurgeon
Dr. Dong Kim. "Her wounds have healed, she has resumed full
physical therapy without a helmet, and I am comfortable that she
can be discharged."
Kelly just returned from commanding the shuttle Endeavour on its
16-day mission to the International Space Station. Giffords
traveled twice to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to see her husband off -
the first attempted launch was delayed.
Giffords and Kelly met in 2003 during a young leaders' forum in
China, then married in November 2007 in Tucson. Giffords then split
her time between Washington, D.C., and Arizona, while Kelly
remained in Houston. The two saw each other whenever and wherever
they could.
The first clear pictures of Giffords since the shooting were
posted Sunday on Facebook, showing her smiling broadly and looking
straight at the camera. In another, more candid shot, she is
grinning alongside her mother. In both, her smile is largely
unchanged, though her hair is shorter and darker. The pictures gave
few indications she has been injured, let alone shot in the
forehead.
Giffords' doctors said she has made remarkable progress, but
cautioned she faces many challenges and months of intensive
outpatient care. She was shot in the left side of her head, which
controls speech and communication.
Her chief of staff told the Arizona Republic last week that
Giffords struggles to find words and put together sentences, and t
hat it remains unclear whether she eventually will be able to
resume work in Congress.
"Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using
facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing,"
Carusone told the Republic. "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."
A judge has declared shooting suspect Jared Loughner mentally
incapable of participating in his defense and sent him to a federal
facility where doctors will try to treat his condition and make it
possible to put him on trial.
With an open Senate seat, some Arizona Democrats had viewed
Giffords as one of their best hopes for gaining votes in the
Senate, before the Jan. 8 shooting threw her political future into
question.
The shooting has created something of a vacuum, with few
candidates willing to declare their interest until Giffords'
situation is clarified. Carusone has only said that the
congresswoman has until May 2012 to decide.
Barber said he hopes she'll return to Tucson soon.
"This is just one of the next really major steps toward her
recovery," he said. "I'm sure she'll count this as another step
just as we all do."

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


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