Giffords to be sent today to rehab center

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Doctors prepared Gabrielle Giffords and her family on Thursday to leave behind the Arizona hospital where she dazzled them with her rapid recovery so she can get on with an even more arduous task: Getting life back to normal.

Her husband said he’s hoping she’ll make a full recovery, calling her “a fighter like nobody else that I know.”

The doctors who will help her at a Houston rehab center offered a more sober outlook.

“Not everyone always gets 100 percent restoration, but we help them to get to a new normal,” said Carl Josehart, chief executive of the rehab hospital that will be the Arizona congresswoman’s home for the next month or two.

Giffords is recovering from a bullet wound to the brain. In her last medical update at University Medical Center in Tucson, doctors said she has scrolled through an iPad, has picked out different colored objects and has moved her lips.

They are unsure whether she is mouthing words, nor do they know how much she is able to see. Her husband, Houston-based astronaut Mark Kelly, believes she has made attempts to speak and can recognize those around her.

“I can just look in her eyes and tell,” Kelly said at a final briefing at the Tucson hospital. “She is very aware of the situation.”

Giffords is expected to be moved on Friday morning to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital. U.S. Capitol police arrived Thursday afternoon to set up extra security measures at the 119-bed facility that is part of the massive Texas Medical Center complex.

The first three days of her stay will involve comprehensive medical and psychological evaluations so a detailed treatment plan can be developed, Josehart said.

Giffords will stay at Memorial Hermann until she no longer needs 24-hour medical care — the average is one to two months. Then she can continue getting up to five hours a day of physical and other rehab therapies on an outpatient basis, he said.

Giffords’ progress was evident Wednesday as she stood on her feet with assistance from medical staff.

During rehabilitation she will have to relearn how to think and plan. It’s unclear if she is able to speak. And while she is moving both arms and legs, it’s uncertain how much strength she has on her right side; the bullet passed through the left side of her brain, which controls the right side of the body.

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