Giffords is out of hospital, will be treated as outpatient

2011-06-16T00:01:00Z 2013-09-17T15:58:32Z Giffords is out of hospital, will be treated as outpatientBy Jill Jorden Spitz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

She's taken a couple of cross-country flights in the past few months, and her husband recently rocketed into space.

But the 30-mile trip U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made across the Houston area Wednesday may have been her most satisfying yet.

After five months in the hospital following a gunshot wound clear through the left side of her head, Giffords was discharged from Houston's TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital.

"The congresswoman is elated," her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said. "This is a major step in her recovery, and she's feeling very good about it."

She soon will begin outpatient treatment with the same doctors and rehab team that have tended to her since she arrived a few days after the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings that killed six people and injured Giffords and 12 others.

Giffords isn't yet able to return to Tucson - something her staff and friends say she is eager to do - because she will continue her intensive therapy program. While she does that, she will stay at her husband's home in League City, Texas, about 30 miles from the hospital.

Although she still will receive 24-hour assistance from a home health-care provider, Giffords' cognitive abilities and physical strength have advanced to the point where she no longer needs hospital care, a news release from the hospital said.

"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago," Dr. Gerard Francisco, the hospital's chief medical officer, said in the release. "We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."

Her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, said he believes the change of scenery will further his wife's recovery.

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Kelly said in the release. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her. She will still go to TIRR each day but from now on, when she finishes rehab, she will be with her family."

After two weeks at University Medical Center's Level 1 trauma center, Giffords left Tucson Jan. 21 with residents lining the streets from the hospital to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and applauding as she passed. She spent a few days in the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Neuro-trauma intensive-care unit and then was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann on Jan. 26.

Last month - while her husband was in space commanding the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour - she underwent a cranioplasty procedure to replace a portion of her skull that had been removed to relieve the pressure of swelling on her brain. The ceramic implant, which will in time be surrounded by new bone cells, removed the need for Giffords to wear a helmet emblazoned with an Arizona flag.

At the same time, a permanent shunt was implanted to drain fluids into her abdominal cavity via a plastic tube.

"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."

Dr. Gerard Francisco, TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital chief medical officer

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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