Giffords trying to speak, faces 'long road' in rehab
Kelly: Community response showed world 'what Tucson is all about'
Thanking Tucsonans for their "love and support" for his wife and family, astronaut Mark Kelly said U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be moved to a Houston rehab facility on Friday.
Giffords "is a fighter like no one else I know," the congresswoman's husband said at a Thursday medical briefing.
Giffords has stood with assistance, has flipped through photos on an iPad, and tried to speak, Kelly and her doctors said.
Kelly said his wife has made attempts to speak but cannot because a breathing tube inserted into her windpipe through her neck. The tube doesn't allow her to move air past her vocal chords, doctors said.
"I feel she's made some attempts," he said.
"She has a tracheostomy. Intellectually, she knows that's there, She knows what that means. In my mind, she's made some attempts."
Kelly reiterated his confidence that Giffords will make a "full recovery."
"I've told her that," he said. "She'll be walking and talking in two months. You'll see her walking through the front door of this building."
Giffords recognizes him, Kelly said. "I can just look in her eyes and tell. She is very aware of the situation."
Giffords has not been told of the shootings, or that anyone was killed, Kelly said Tuesday.
Doctors are unsure if she remembers anything about the incident, said University Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee at Thursday's briefing.
"I don't think we're ever going to fully understand the why and the how, and the reason for what happened on the eighth of January," Kelly said Thursday.
Giffords, who was shot through the head in what authorities are calling an assassination attempt at a meet-and-greet with constituents Jan. 8, faces "a long road ahead," said Dr. G. Michael Lemole, a UMC neurosurgeon.
Six were killed and 13 wounded in the incident, including Giffords, authorities said. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was indicted on three federal charges Wednesday. Other charges are likely, authorities said last week.
All other patients have been discharged, hospital officials said Wednesday.
Months of rehab
Giffords, who was shot through the length of her brain on the left side, faces months of rehabilitation, Lemole said.
Giffords can stand, bearing her own weight, with assistance, Lemole said. She has scrolled through pictures on an iPad, showing "higher cognitive function," he said.
"But I do want to caution... that she has a long road ahead of her," he said.
While determining the quality of her vision is difficult at this point, Giffords has been able to pick out different colored objects, Rhee said. She has been able to "pick out different stuffed animals," Lemole said.
Doctors have begun speech therapy on Giffords, Rhee said. While Giffords cannot vocalize because of a breathing tube in her neck, doctors have begun testing her gag reflex and ability to swallow.
Kelly said that the congresswoman has moved her lips. "Her husband thinks she's communicating at that level," Lemole said.
Giffords had several minor surgeries this week, said Lemole.
"Much of this is housekeeping, getting her to a position where she can graduate from this hospital."
Giffords will "definitely" be moved Friday to to a rehabilitation facility at Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, Rhee said.
A key factor in choosing Houston was the facility's proximity to Johnson Space Center, where Kelly, an active duty Navy pilot and Space Shuttle commander, is stationed.
"The critical factor in this decision is that it will let me be there by her side as much as possible every single day. I don't know how long this process is going to take. If I want to address problems with our teenage children, or consider returning to work, it makes the most sense," he said.
'What Tucson is all about'
Kelly said the community's response to the shootings showed the world "what Tucson is all about."
"The last 12 days have been extraordinarily difficult for myself, for my family, but not only us, I think it's been very difficult for the city of Tucson, for Southern Arizona, and for our country," Kelly said.
"I don't think we're ever going to fully understand the why and the how, and the reason for what happened on the eighth of January," Kelly said.
"The loss of innocent life, the injury of a dozen people, the death of a nine-year-old girl, a federal judge, and the serious traumatic injury to my wife Gabrielle—we'll never fully understand that."
"Emotionally, this has been a challenge for all of us. What this has done, it has certainly shown me, and I think not only our county but the entire world, what Tucson is all about," Kelly said.
"All Americans are very proud of what they've seen, and I know my wife Gabrielle would be very proud of how this community's responded to this tragic situation."
The memorials to the shooting victims are "a testament to what this community is all about," Kelly said. "The love and support that we've received is a bit overwhelming."
"One of the first things Gabby's going to want to do as soon as she's able is to start writing thank you notes, and I've already reminded her of that."