HOUSTON (Reuters) – Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords still struggles to piece together lengthy sentences, but one short phrase she repeats is: “I miss Tucson,” the Arizona Republic newspaper reported on Sunday.
Three and a half months after she was shot in the head at a community event in Tucson, theArizona Democrat is working on improving the use of her right arm and leg through therapy that involves pushing a grocery cart, bowling and indoor golf, according to the story.
She can walk a bit on her own and is working on improving her gait, Dr. Gerard Francisco, the chief medical officer at theInstitute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Centerin Houston, told the newspaper.
“I can’t say I notice improvement every day,” her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, was quoted as saying, “but I can every few days.”
Kelly is commander of the crew of the Endeavor space shuttle, which is slated for launch on Friday from Florida with President Barack Obama in attendance.
Kelly has said his wife plans to attend the shuttle launch, as long as her doctors give a final OK. Her neurologist, Dr. Dong Kim at Memorial Hermann, said she is ready, according to the Arizona Republic.
“We’re very comfortable with her traveling,” Kim said.
James Campbell, a spokesman for Memorial Hermann, told Reuters in an e-mail on Sunday that the hospital plans to issue a statement on Monday “regarding whether or not she has been given the medical green light to travel.”
The Arizona Republic story, based on interviews with her doctors, husband, congressional staff, and a nurse, said Giffords speaks in brief sentences and phrases, such as “love you” or “awesome.” Among patients recovering from her type of injury, doctors said she ranks in the top 5 percent.
And Giffords, who originally was right-handed, is left-handed, at least for now.
“Her left side is perfect,” Pia Carusone, her chief of staff, is quoted as saying. “She can do whatever you can do.”
Giffords was shot at close range when a gunman opened fire on her and a crowd of bystanders at a meet-and-greet event on January 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 others, Giffords among them, were wounded.
Jared Loughner, 22, a college dropout with a history of erratic behavior, is charged with the shooting rampage.
Kelly said his wife learned that people had died and others were wounded when he was reading her a New York Times story about the shooting one day in March and, noticing he had skipped a paragraph, she grabbed the newspaper from his hand.
Giffords cried and said, “So many people, so many people,” according to the Arizona Republic.
But Kelly said he still has not told his wife that the dead included a Gabe Zimmermanfrom her staff, a federal judge who was a friend, and a 9-year-old girl.
Some days, Giffords thinks she will recover; other days, she has her doubts.
“When I tell her that she’s not going to be in a wheelchair forever, she believes that,” Kelly said.
(Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Steve Gorman)
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