U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was discharged from a hospital in Houston Wednesday, about five months since she was shot in the head at a constituent meeting in Tuscon, Ariz. She will begin her next step of recovery as an outpatient.
After being released from TIRR Memorial Hermann, Giffords, 40, will be relocated to home of her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, in League City, Texas.
Kelly, who has remained optimisitic of Gifford's recovery throughout the ordeal, praised both his wife's character and doctors who treated her.
"Gabby gives her all to everything she does and that’s exactly what she’s been doing at TIRR since Jan. 26," said Kelly. "The remarkable progress she has made since then is a testament to both her single-minded determination to get better and the team of medical professionals overseeing her care."
Doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann said Giffords' cognitive abilities and physical strength have improved to a point where she no longer needs to remain at the hospital. The Arizona congresswoman will soon begin outpatient treatment at the same facility, the hospital said Wednesday.
Dr. Gerard Francisco, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said Giffords has "shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago."
"We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."
Dr. Francisco will continue to to oversee Giffords' care as she continues the intensive therapy program with the same rehab team.
Giffords is expected to finish her rehab by the afternoon and return home each day where she will be assisted by a 24-hour home health provider.
The announcement of Giffords' release come just three days after new photos of the Congresswoman were posted to her Facebook page. The May 17 photos, taken one day before her latest surgery, showed Giffords smiling for the camera and sitting by her mom.
Thousands of well-wishers and even photojournalist P.K. Weis, who captured the shots, found Giffords' photos "inspiring."
“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," said Weis.
The day after her photo shoot, Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery where doctors inserted a plastic implant to replace a portion of her skull that had been removed to relieve the pressure of swelling on her brain. Surgeons also implanted a device that helped drain fluids from inside her skull to her abdominal cavity.
Two weeks ago, doctors removed the stitches from the cranioplasty, a final step in the healing process.
“Her wounds have healed, she has resumed full physical therapy without a helmet, and I am comfortable that she can be discharged," said Dr. Dong Kim, director of Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head on Jan. 8 by Jared Loughner. The 22-year-old shooter opened fire outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents, killing six people and wounding 13 others. The bullet that hit Giffords went straight through her brain.
On May 25, a federal judge ruled Loughner incompetent to stand trial, basing his decision on findings of two forensic mental-health professionals who evaluated the Loughner. The judged ordered that Loughner be evaluated again in four months.