Gabrielle Giffords may attend husband's shuttle launch

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:26 PM
Gabrielle Giffords may attend husband's shuttle launch

By Deborah Quinn Hensel

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. congresswoman shot in the head in January in a rampage that killed six people, may be well enough to see her astronaut husband blast off on a space shuttle mission next month, her doctors said Friday.

"The goal is for her to witness the launch in April," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston where Giffords is being treated.

"Our number one concern is that it will be safe and appropriate for her to do that ... we are still planning, we have a lot of options we are considering at this point," he told a news conference.

Giffords, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was shot through the head at close range while hosting a congressional meeting outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona on January 8.

Aides said Thursday they were hopeful she would be able to watch her husband, Mark Kelly, blast into space as leader of the Endeavour shuttle mission -- due for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on April 19 on what is currently scheduled to be NASA's penultimate shuttle flight.

Any trip to Florida would come before a part of her skull was reattached, doctors said. Neurology director Dr. Dong Kim said the team planned to replace it sometime in May.

Francisco said Giffords was "gaining more movement, she's gaining more ability to do things for herself ... the amount of assistance that she needs has decreased significantly."

There were also clear signs that her memory was returning. But she had no recall of the shooting, Kim told reporters, adding this was "normal for ... this type of injury."

Jared Loughner, 22, has been charged with the January shootings. He pleaded not guilty to an expanded 49-count indictment in federal court in Tucson Wednesday.

(Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton and Frances Kerry)