Family: Giffords To Move Friday To Rehab In Houston

January 19, 2011

NPR Staff and Wires

The family of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced today that she will be moved Friday from Arizona to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston to begin the next phase of her recovery from a gunshot wound.

Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, said that unless medical issues delay the move, her care will continue at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston, where he lives and works as an astronaut. Doctors say the exact day of the move will depend on Giffords' health.

"I am extremely hopeful at the signs of recovery that my wife has made since the shooting," Mark Kelly said in a statement released by Giffords' congressional office. "The team of doctors and nurses at UMC [University Medical Center in Tucson] has stabilized her to the point of being ready to move to the rehabilitation phase."

Kelly is scheduled as commander of NASA's last space shuttle flight in April, but that's uncertain now. He has been a constant presence at Giffords' bedside since rushing to Tucson after the attack.

Her doctors said the family considered rehabilitation hospitals in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Houston.

Word of the move was met with elation from Giffords' friends and others who have been visiting the three-term Democrat at the hospital.

"It's good news for all of us and for all the people who have been praying for wisdom and strength for the surgeons and others who have been helping her," said Stephanie Aaron, Giffords' rabbi at Congregation Chaverim in Tucson. "It's nothing short of a miracle, but it's also Gabby's will to fight. It's her strength of spirit."

Giffords was gravely wounded by a gunshot to the forehead on Jan. 8 as she was meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. The gunman shot 18 other people, killing six.

Video Shows Mayhem, Heroism

On Wednesday, law enforcement officials described graphic scenes of the shooting and a federal judge's heroism after they saw a surveillance video taken outside the grocery store, which was not released publicly.

One FBI official described the video to NPR as "harrowing." Giffords, the official said, was shot in the forehead from just a few feet away, and then the gunman began shooting people sitting nearby.

Pima County Sheriff's Chief Rick Kastigar told the Associated Press that the video shows U.S. District Judge John Roll trying to shield Giffords aide Ron Barber from gunfire. Roll was killed in the shooting spree; Barber was shot and survived.

"I believe the judge is a hero," Kastigar said."I think Judge Roll is responsible for directing Mr. Barber out of the line of fire and helped save his life."

Kastigar said the gunman shot Barber, and almost simultaneously, Roll moved Barber toward the ground and both crawled beneath the table, with Roll getting on top of Barber.

The sheriff's office turned the video over to the FBI, which has declined to release it.

"You know, I've been a cop for three decades and I've seen some pretty traumatic and disturbing things, and this was very, very upsetting to watch this," Kastigar said of the video. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.