US Rep. Giffords releases first post-shooting photos

Jewish congresswoman may be released from hospital soon; photographs show incredible progress since she was shot in head.

Gabrielle Giffords FB pics 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gabrielle Giffords FB pics 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
HOUSTON - A smiling US Representative Gabrielle Giffords appeared in photos released on the Internet on Sunday, the first made public since she was shot in the head in January.
At the same time, preparations were being made for her to be discharged from a rehabilitation center in Houston "really soon" to continue therapy as an out-patient, her spokesman C.J. Karamargin told Reuters.
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He said her abilities improve weekly and that discussions were under way for Giffords to resume more active duties with her congressional office.
Giffords was shot at close range by a gunman who opened fire at her and crowd of bystanders at a political event Jan. 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.
The photos were taken May 17 at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston the day before Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery to replace part of her skull.
In the pictures, Giffords is seen with very short hair, wearing glasses and a burgundy shirt with a colorful collar. A day earlier her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, had commanded the space shuttle Endeavour on its final trip to the international space station.
"These pictures show a resilient woman who has made amazing progress," Karamargin said. "She had just seen her husband go into space on a rocket. Who wouldn't be smiling?"
Karamargin said Giffords and Kelly wanted to release the photos in response to the tremendous public interest in her recovery and her appearance.
"Any photographer in the country would have loved the opportunity to take these pictures, and I was delighted to be asked," said photographer P.K. Weis of in a statement released with the photos.
Weis, who has known Giffords for more than a decade, said the congresswoman's mother, a close friend and a member of her staff were present for the photo shoot.
"It was very inspiring to see how much she had recovered in four and a half months," Weis said. "I was excited to see her and to see her smile. She was glad to see me, was in a good mood, smiling and laughing, and seemed to enjoy the experience. I certainly did, too."
Twelve other people also were wounded in the shooting, and six people were killed, including a federal judge, a young girl and one of Giffords' aides.
The 22-year-old college dropout charged with the shooting, Jared Loughner, was recently declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent back to a Missouri hospital for federal prisoners last month.
Giffords spent the first three weeks after the shooting hospitalized in Tucson, then was transferred to the Houston center on Jan. 21 to begin rehabilitation.
Weis worked at the Tucson Citizen newspaper for 36 years, including 30 years as photo editor, until the paper closed in 2009.