Giffords celebrates birthday 5 months after shooting
Gabrielle Giffords turned 41 years old Wednesday.
That's not a very remarkable birthday for most people, but for Giffords it also marks five months since she was shot through the left side of her brain.
That makes her 41st remarkable indeed.
"Congresswoman Giffords will spend most of her birthday the same way she spends most days: working hard on getting better," said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin.
"She had a small pre-birthday gathering over the weekend, enjoying some cake with family and a few close friends. She had a great time," he said.
Giffords is recovering from her wound a Houston rehab facility following an operation to replace part of her skull last month.
"We're taking a tremendous amount of inspiration from what her doctors have said," Karamargin said Tuesday.
Doctors treating the Arizona Democrat have called her recovery "miraculous."
"I saw her last Thursday and Friday," Karamargin said. "It was a confirmation of what the doctors are talking about."
"It's astounding that she's made the progress that she has."
Doctors don't know when Giffords can be released from the hospital, or when she might be able to return to Congress, they said following her surgery last month.
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon who has been treating the congresswoman, at a press conference after the operation.
"We can't predict how much progress she'll make. We can't predict when she'll return to work," Kim said.
Giffords is "recovering very nicely," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, who has been managing her rehab.
Her cognition has "improved very significantly," he said, noting that "we're having meaningful, fun conversation—she's cracked me up."
"It's difficult at this juncture to make any guesses about when she'll go back to work," he said.
While doctors said they have a tentative schedule for Giffords' rehab and release, they declined to give specifics about dates.
Karamargin wouldn't comment on when Giffords might begin outpatient therapy, or when she might make a public appearance.
"If there's one thing we've learned through this entire ordeal, it is the need to be patient," he said.
While some have called upon Giffords to resign her seat, there's been little indication that she will do so any time soon.
Beginning just days after the shooting, others have explored declaring her seat vacant. A state law on vacant offices doesn't apply to federal representatives, and an online petition asking Gov. Jan Brewer to declare a special election has attracted only 211 signatures.
According to the Constitution, members of the House of Representatives can only be forced out of office by a vote by the House. Federal courts have found that states are powerless to set limits on those serving in federal office above those found in the Constitution and federal law.
Mo Udall hospitalized for 4 months
Arizona has had a representative who was unable to work for a long period before, without attempting to invoke the vacancy law.
In 1991, then-Rep. Mo Udall was hospitalized for nearly four months, until he resigned on May 4.
Udall, who had Parkinson's disease, fell down the stairs of his McLean, Va., home on Jan. 6. He suffered several broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade and a concussion.
Udall announced his retirement on April 19 of that year.
Accused shooter found incompetent to stand trial
Jared Lee Loughner is accused of killing six and shooting Giffords in the head in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt.
Among those killed were a nine-year-old girl and Arizona's presiding federal judge.
He also is charged with wounding 12 others at the "Congress On Your Corner" meet and greet with constituents at a Northwest Side grocery store on the morning of Jan. 8.
He was found incompetent to stand trial last month, and was sent to a federal facility in Missouri for treatment to restore his ability to understand the charges against him and participate in his defense.
In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.
Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.
Loughner likely will face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said, but only after the federal case is resolved.