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Timeline of Gabrielle Giffords's Recovery Timeline of Gabrielle Giffords's Recovery

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Timeline of Gabrielle Giffords's Recovery


Mark Kelly holds the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her hospital room.(Courtesy Photo)

Our timeline, with most recent updates first, of the changing condition of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.:

Wednesday, Oct. 5: Giffords will travel to Washington to attend the military retirement ceremony for her husband, Mark Kelly, of the Navy. She is not expected to conduct any congressional business.


Monday, Aug. 29: District Director Ron Barber says Giffords is walking with a cane and writing left-handed.

Monday, Aug. 1: Giffords returned to the House floor for the first time since before she was shot to vote with the majority to pass the debt-ceiling deal.

Late July: Giffords is told of the six people who died during Loughner's rampage, including Judge John Roll, aide Gabe Zimmerman, and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. She deliberately was kept in the dark beforehand.


Monday, June 27: Giffords made her first major public appearance since being shot in the head January in Tucson. Giffords attended a ceremony at the Space Center in Houston saluting her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, and the Endeavor crew. Culture Map Houston reports that after entering in a wheelchair to a standing ovation, Giffords waved to the audience, and later stood to hug her husband.

Friday, June 17: Giffords will visit Tucson for the first time since the shooting. She won't make any public appearances or grant interviews.

Wednesday, June 15: Five months after being shot, Giffords is released from the Houston hospital where she had been recuperating.

Sunday, June 12: Two new photos released on Giffords’s Facebook page show the Arizona Democrat with close-cropped hair and few obvious traces of her shooting.


The note on Giffords’s Facebook page says, “The photos were taken May 17 at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty.” Giffords had been transferred to the Houston hospital for rehab and to be near her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, who was preparing to lead the Endeavour space shuttle mission.

Wednesday, May 25: Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who allegedly shot at Giffords and her staff, is found incompetent to stand trial. 

Thursday, May 19: Giffords is recovering at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston after undergoing surgery to attach a ceramic plate to her skull. The surgery is a step forward; doctors could not install the implant until her cranial swelling ceased.

Monday, May 16: Giffords is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida waiting for the launch of space shuttle Endeavour, which is being commanded by her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. The launch is scheduled for 8:56 a.m. ABC News reported on Good Morning America that Giffords and Kelly swapped wedding rings before the launch. 

Giffords and her staff are following the launch on Twitter: "Good Morning! Who’s ready for the best the show on Earth?" Her staff members have said they plan to hold a news conference after the launch.

Friday, April 29: Giffords was to watch the shuttle Endeavour lift off from Florida, but the launch was delayed because of engineering problems. Instead, Giffords met with President Obama. Giffords's husband Mark Kelly is the shuttle's commander.

Thursday, April 28: Jared Lee Loughner, the man charged with carrying out the shooting rampage and shooting Giffords in the head, was moved back to Arizona from Missouri after undergoing mental exams there, according to the Associated Press.

Wednesday, April 27: Giffords boards a plane for Florida to watch her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, who is commanding the mission of space shuttle Endeavour, when the shuttle launches Friday.

Monday, April 25: Katie Couric's interview with Kelly airs on CBS’s Early Show and the CBS Evening News. Kelly said Giffords would attend the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, a mission he’s commanding, on Friday. Kelly reports that his wife is continuing to make progress, and can now play Scrabble (on his team.)

Tuesday, April 19: National Journal's Hotline reports that Giffords's campaign for reelection has raised $358,237.

Saturday, March 19: The American Red Cross sponsors "Gabrielle Giffords Honorary Save-a-Life Saturday" to teach Americans basic first aid and CPR skills. Giffords and others who were shot in Tucson were saved in part by basic first aid, the Red Cross said.

Friday, March 11: A Giffords aide says the congresswoman plans to attend the launch of husband Mark Kelly's space shuttle mission. Of course, noted the aide, changes in Giffords’s condition will ultimately determine whether or not she can make it.

Wednesday, March 9: Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner pleads not guilty to 49 felony counts in a Tucson courtroom.

Wednesday, March 2: The director of rehab at New York Presbyterian Hospital tells USA Today, "It's not inconceivable that she would return to Congress, but it's unlikely that she will be exactly as she was beforehand."

Wednesday, Feb. 9: One month and one day after suffering a gunshot wound to the head, Giffords makes a major breakthrough and begins to speak, asking for toast at breakfast. No doubt the congresswoman had grown tired of her liquid diet.

Friday, Feb. 4: Astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords's husband, is expected to announce that he will command the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour in April, according to reports. Kelly was previously undecided, waiting on the developments in his wife's condition.

Thursday, Feb. 3: Kelly delivers the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said, "I can only hope, and I told Gabby the other night, that maybe it is possible that all of this is just one small part of [a bigger] plan. That maybe something good can come from all this. Maybe it’s your responsibility and our responsibility to see what that is." He closed by saying, "Please continue to keep Gabby in your thoughts and in the prayers of your heart. It is really helping."

Wednesday, Feb. 2: Kelly, a Navy captain and astronaut, tweeted that his wife had a "huge day" and was making "lots of progress" in her recovery.

Wednesday, Jan. 26: Speaking at a press conference, Giffords's doctors said that a speaking valve will be placed in her breathing tube, according to news reports. They also said they removed a tube draining excess fluid from her brain on Monday. Earlier in the day, Giffords' doctors upgraded her status from "serious" to "good" and she was moved from a Houston hospital to a rehab facility.

Monday, Jan. 24: Jared Lee Loughner, Giffords's alleged assailant, is to appear in federal court in Phoenix to continue his trial. He has already received three indictments related to the non-fatal shootings of Giffords and two aides. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns of California has been appointed to the case because the Arizona colleagues of slain U.S. District Judge John M. Roll recused themselves.

Friday, Jan. 21: Giffords arrives safely at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital to continue her next step toward recovery.

Giffords is driven to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson to board the plane to Houston, where she will continue her recovery at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital. She is escorted by a group of VFW motorcycle riders who rode with the congresswoman in 2009 when they escorted the remains of Civil War veterans from Tucson to Sierra Vista. Joining Giffords on the plane will be UMC trauma surgeon Peter Rhee and a nurse from the intensive care unit, as well as the congresswoman’s mother, her chief of staff, her communications director, and her husband.

Thursday, Jan. 20: At a news conference from Tucson, Dr. Lemole said Giffords is now able to stand on her own and take some steps. He cautioned that she has a long road ahead of her. Giffords’s husband, Mark Kelly, said they chose TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston for his wife’s continued care because it was the “closest of the best.” He added, “I’m extremely confident that she is going to be back here and back at work soon." When asked if she could talk, he said she has only made attempts.

Wednesday, Jan. 19: Jared Lee Loughner, Giffords's would-be assasin, is indicted  on three counts by a federal grand jury in Tucson. More indictments for the 22-year-old may follow.

Giffords' office announces that she is scheduled to be transported Friday from the University Medical Center in Tucson to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.

Tuesday, Jan. 18: In an interview scheduled to air today, Mark Kelly tells ABC's Diane Sawyer that his wife gave him a 10-minute neck massage from her hospital bed. It was a moment, Kelly said, that persuaded him of her progress and reminded him that their personal connection was still in tact.

Monday, Jan. 17: Hospital officials say Giffords is doing well after two separate surgeries over the weekend. Doctors performed a tracheotomy on Giffords to protect her breathing passages and they also repaired a fracture in the congresswoman’s right eye and removed pieces of bone for her eye socket.

Sunday, Jan. 16: In the most tangible sign of her improving status, Giffords's condition is upgraded from critical to serious, the hospital reports. A reason given: Her ability to breathe without assistance of a ventilator.

Giffords is moving both sides of her body, a fellow member of Congress said. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told CBS's Face the Nation that Giffords is "showing people that she can communicate well by, you know, holding our hands and moving her arms and legs and looking at us. So she's making great progress." Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told NBC's Meet the Press. Gillibrand, a friend of the Arizona Democrat, said she spoke to Giffords's husband, Mark Kelly, on Saturday night.

Saturday, January 15: Doctors remove Giffords's breathing tube, saying they could soon know if she can speak. Giffords had an operation Saturday to replace the breathing tube with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. That allows her to breathe better and frees her from the ventilator. "Her recovery continues as planned," the hospital said in a statement.

Friday, Jan. 14: Update from Dr. Lemole, who says Giffords is beginning to carry out more "complex sequences" in response to their commands. "We wouldn't have hope for any better improvement than we're seeing now," said Lemole.

Thursday, Jan. 13: NASA announces backup shuttle commmander to fill in for husband Mark Kelly should he be unable to leave his wife's side by the April 19 launch date.

After the press conference, doctors Rhee and Lemole speak with MSNBC's Contessa Brewer. They say she is completely off sedation, which may explain some of her recent progress. "She's not in a chemical fog," Rhee says.

Good news from Giffords's doctors, Rhee and Lemole. Giffords is keeping her eyes open longer, yawning and rubbing her wounds. Said she opened her eyes last night to look at the TV during President's address. They are also beginning "physical therapy" by dangling her leg off of the hospital bed. Lemole on danger from brain swelling: "We're starting to get out of that window." But he warned that "a lot of medicine is outside of our control, and we're wise to acknowledge that." The next milestone will be removing Giffords' breathing tube.

Giffords is making "spontaneous movements," such as feeling her wounds and adjusting her hospital gown. Hospital statement expected at noon.

This article appears in the February 9, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.

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