Gabrielle Giffords cleared to view shuttle launch: husband

April 25, 2011


WASHINGTON — Astronaut Mark Kelly says his wife, US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has been cleared to attend his space shuttle launch after recovering steadily from a brain injury sustained in a shooting.

The Democratic lawmaker was shot once through the head during a January 8 shooting rampage that killed six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, at an outdoor meeting she was hosting in Tuscon, Arizona.

Giffords was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital in Houston, Texas, in late January.

“I’ve met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors. And… they’ve given us permission to take her down to the launch,” NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, the congresswoman’s husband, told “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”

“I’m excited about that.”

CBS released excerpts of the interview on Sunday and will broadcast it on Monday.

Asked about his wife’s reaction to the news, Kelly responded: “she said ‘awesome’ and pumped her fist.”

Giffords is recovering from a bullet that tore through her brain’s left hemisphere, which controls speech and movement for the right side of the body.

“Her personality’s a hundred percent there. You know, it’s difficult for her to walk. The communication skills are difficult, at this point,” said Kelly, adding that his wife was “100 percent” herself.

Kelly is the commander of the space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, scheduled to launch Friday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“I can’t say I notice improvement every day, but I can every few days,” he told The Arizona Republic in an article published Sunday.

Giffords has said she wants to attend the launch, and Dong Kim, the Memorial Hermann neurosurgeon who oversees Giffords’s care, indicated her wish will be granted.

“We’re very comfortable with her traveling,” he told the newspaper.

Kim said Giffords “is maybe in the top one percent of patients in terms of how far she’s come, and how quickly she’s gotten there. I think the question, then, becomes, how far is she going to go?”

Surgery is scheduled in May to repair a section of her skull with a cranial implant. Surgeons in Tucson tried to preserve the portion they removed but it is now infected.

The congresswoman is rehabilitating her right arm and leg through therapy that includes pushing a grocery cart, playing indoor golf and bowling, according to the Republic.

She can stand on her own and walk a bit, but use of her right leg is still improving. She is learning to write with her left hand.

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