Congresswoman Giffords flies to Texas rehab center
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Representative Gabrielle Giffords arrived in Texas on Friday to start the next phase of her recovery at a rehabilitation centre following a 13-day hospitalization in Arizona for a gunshot wound to the head.
Giffords, 40, left Tucson's University Medical Centre earlier in the day and flew from an Air Force base in Arizona to a Houston airport on a private plane owned by Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta.
The congresswoman was then whisked by two helicopters to the rooftop of the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research at Memorial Hermann hospital, which specializes in treatment of brain and spinal cord injuries.
Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head at point-blank range on January 8 when a gunman opened fire at an event where she was meeting with constituents. Doctors have described her progress as nothing short of a miracle.
She was accompanied on her 900-mile flight from Tucson to Texas by her astronaut husband Mark Kelly, her mother and her trauma surgeon from Tucson.
Scores of well-wishers, some with "Get Well Gabby" signs and American flags, lined the streets near the hospital in Tucson to wave and applaud as Giffords was driven by ambulance from the hospital in a police-led motorcade.
She arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson a short time later and was put aboard a twin-engine jet outfitted as an air ambulance.
At a news conference on Thursday, doctors in Tucson said Giffords had come a long way in a short time given the severity of her injury.
Kelly said his wife has tried to speak, though she has been prevented from doing so by a breathing tube attached to her windpipe. He said she occasionally rubs his back, pats his face and even undid his necktie and collar as he sat on her hospital bed.
Doctors said she is beginning to stand with assistance and has been scrolling through an iPad. But they added that she still has a long way to go in her recuperation.
Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout, is charged with the shooting. Six bystanders including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl were killed in the incident, and 13 others were wounded, Giffords among them.
The shootings sparked a national debate about whether vitriolic political discourse was encouraging violence against politicians and whether stricter gun-control measures should be adopted in the United States.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; additional reporting by Brad Poole in Tucson, Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Jerry Norton, Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)
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