(Photo: SouthwestPhotoBank/P.K. Weis)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ dream to be back in her hometown came true Friday evening when she arrived in Tucson for the first time since she was wounded in a mass shooting rampage that killed six in January.
“We’ve been dreaming of this trip for some time. Gabby misses Tucson very much and her doctors have said that returning to her hometown could play an important role in her recovery,” Mark E. Kelly, the astronaut husband of the representative from Arizona’s 8th congressional district, said in a press release.
Giffords, her husband and one of his daughters flew from Houston, where Kelly lives, to Tucson on a private plane, the representative’s spokesperson C.J. Karamargin was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. He said the Arizona Democrat would spend Father’s Day weekend with her family.
“Going home has been something that’s been right at the top of her list. She is a child of the desert. This is where her heart is. There is no doubt that this will provide a boost in her recovery,” Karamargin added.
Kelly said the trip would be “very emotional” but urged the news media to respect their privacy. Giffords’ staff also stressed that she would not have any public appearance or media interview.
Kelly added that Giffords loved being outside and that “living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her.”
The 41-year-old congresswoman was released from the Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital Wednesday, around five months after she was shot in the left side of her head which caused brain swelling and other damage on January 8.
However, Giffords will still have to go to hospital every day for therapy. Doctors say it may take months, or even years, of intensive therapy for her to relearn how to speak and walk.
Ever since the congresswoman was admitted to the hospital, the media has had no access to her and people remained concerned about her recovery. On June 12, two of her photos were released on her Facebook page for the first time since the shooting incident. The photos showed Giffords smiling and having shorter hair (doctors had shaved it).
Days after Giffords was sworn in for her third term in the House, a gunman opened fire as she was meeting constituents near a grocery store in Casas Adobes, Ariz., killing the state’s chief federal judge and five others and leaving the lawmaker and some of her other staff wounded.
Karamargin said since Giffords was injured while on the job she had no plans to leave her congressional seat, which she has until January 2013.