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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Has Long Road To Recovery, Says Chief Of Staff

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Jun. 9 2011, Published 10:21 a.m. ET

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By Amber Goodhand Staff Reporter

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been making a miraculous recovery after being shot in the head five months ago, but her team says she still has a long road ahead of her.

"She's living. She's alive. But if she were to plateau today, and this was as far as she gets, it would not be nearly the quality of life she had before," Chief of Staff Pia Carusone told an Arizona website on Thursday.

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"There's no comparison. All that we can hope for is that she won't plateau today and that she'll keep going and that when she does plateau, it will be at a place far away from here."

Giffords was shot in the head by Jared Loughner on January 8 after he went on a horrific shooting rampage outside of an Arizona Safeway grocery store, killing six and leaving 13 others injured.

"We do a lot of inferring with her because her communication skills have been impacted the most," Carusone said.

"She is borrowing upon other ways of communicating. Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing. Add it all together, and she's able to express the basics of what she wants or needs. But, when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that's where she's had the trouble."

Just two days after she watched her husband Mark Kelly blast into space on the shuttle Endeavour in May, Giffords had an operation to replace part of her skull that was removed following the shooting to ease swelling of the brain and prevent further tissue damage.

Gabrielle Giffords
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"This is a one-step-at-a-time process. It has been a difficult and busy time with everything... I think that we're getting close to the time when Gabby will feel comfortable releasing a photo. Then, we go from there," Carusone said.

"There's so much that is unknown. With cancer or a heart issue, doctors can tell you a lot more. With brain injuries, they can't. ... A lot of this is a waiting game. That is a difficult thing to explain when speaking to the public. But she was a perfectly healthy 40-year-old who was injured on the job. I'm hoping that buys her a little more patience. But it's a brutal world out there."

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Carusone went on to say that Giffords has made a “tremendously good recovery” to this point and they remain optimistic.

Loughner was indicted on 49 counts to which the 22-year-old pled not guilty, and on May 25 he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Loughner will remain in a mental health facility for further treatment and evaluation until a hearing four months from now that will determine if his mental competency has improved.



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