Video: U.S. Rep. Giffords released from hospital

  1. Closed captioning of: U.S. Rep. Giffords released from hospital

    >> the big step in the recovery of congresswoman gabrielle giffords . she's home this morning for the first time since she was shot in the head in january. thanh truong has details on this from houston this morning. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning to you. doctors say gabrielle giffords 's cognitive ability and physical strength have improved to the point she no longer has to be a full-time patient. she will receive care but on an outpatient basis. she's been released to her husband and family which they have all been waiting on since that horrible day in january.

    >> reporter: mark kelly and gabrielle giffords were seen coming and going. a neighbor captured the emotions of so many.

    >> i think it's a miracle. it's really just been very happy that she's come this far and that she's at this point.

    >> reporter: already this week new photos were released showing gabrielle giffords smiling. in a phone interview her communications director described the homecoming for gabby.

    >> fantastic. she was elated, happy to be able to go to mark's home and be with her family every evening.

    >> reporter: of course, it was january 8th when the congresswoman was shot in tucson leaving six people dead and 13 injured, including giffords who clung to life after a gunshot to the head. with her husband by her side, the nation has followed giffords' progress every step of the way.

    >> gabby opened her eyes for the first time. [ cheers and applause ]

    >> gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

    >> reporter: then, her first word.

    >> she was having oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast. she asked me for toast. she sounded great.

    >> reporter: soon, she was able to have a conversation with her husband.

    >> she's speaking a lot. at some level they are asking her to slow down a little bit.

    >> reporter: giffords continued to work. eight hours a day in rehab, determined to be at her husband's final shuttle launch.

    >> she's more than medically ready to be here. she's excited about making the trip.

    >> reporter: in april, she not only made it to florida, but she did it on her own two feet. her progress continues to surprise everyone around her.

    >> it's amazing to think this woman was shot at point blank range in the head less than six months ago.

    >> reporter: doctors warn gabby's recovery is far from over.

    >> when anyone has a traumatic brain injury like this people want to know, when will i get better? how long will it take? what will it look like? an the reality is no one really knows. it's important to recognize that while everyone is excited for her discharge, this doesn't mean it's all over. it means that we have turned a new chapter in her life.

    >> reporter: a new chapter that gabby and her family are happy to begin at home. as an outpatient, giffords' therapy won't change. she has a lot of work to do on her speech and motor skills but at the end of the day she'll be with her family and friends say it means everything to the

updated 6/16/2011 7:59:29 AM ET 2011-06-16T11:59:29

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned home to her astronaut husband on Wednesday, leaving behind a Houston hospital where she began to rebuild her life after a gunman shot her in the head five months ago.

Giffords' release begins a new phase in her recovery. She struggles to speak and walk, and will need daily, intensive therapy. Whether she will ever recover enough to resume her congressional duties is still unknown.

Doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann, her husband Mark Kelly and experts who have been observing Giffords' recovery emphasize though that going home is a key milestone and could help stimulate her progress.

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Kelly said in a statement released by the hospital. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her."

Giffords will go to the hospital each day. Now, when she finishes rehab, "she will be with her family," he added.

The congresswoman will move to Kelly's home in League City, a suburb near the Johnson Space Center. Her therapy will continue with the team that has been treating her since her arrival in Houston.

'Uplifting and healing'
Giffords was shot in the left side of the head, the side that controls speech and communication, on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker.

Her release from the hospital was met with excitement by her staff.

"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," said Ron Barber, who also survived the shooting.

"I'm sure it'll be uplifting and healing for her, too," he said.

Video: Staff: Giffords struggling to communicate (on this page)

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," neurosurgeon Dr. Dong Kim said. "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, Florida, 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 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. The photos had few indications that she has been injured, let alone shot in the forehead.

One showed 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.

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Giffords' doctors said she has made remarkable progress, but cautioned that she faces many challenges and months of intensive outpatient care.

Her chief of staff told the Arizona Republic last week that Giffords can speak, but struggles to express complex thoughts and sentences.

"Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing," Pia Carusone told the newspaper.

"Add it all together, and she's able to express the basics of what she wants or needs," Carusone said. "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 in Arizona, some Democrats had viewed Giffords as one of their best hopes for winning it, 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."


Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Interactive: Giffords' shooting


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