- Associated Press - Monday, January 17, 2011

TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has surmounted one hurdle after another since she was gravely wounded in the Arizona shootings. Her latest was especially significant _ a condition upgrade from critical to serious.

Her doctors’ decision Sunday was yet another sign of a remarkable recovery since she was shot in the head Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire as she met constituents in a Tucson supermarket parking lot. Six people were killed and 13 were wounded, including the congresswoman.

Giffords is now able to move around well enough that he gave Kelly a back rub from her hospital bed, he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an interview that will air Tuesday.

“(It is) so typical of her. She’s in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage,” Kelly explained. “I keep tellin’ her. I’m like, ‘Gabby, you’re in the ICU. You know, you don’t need _ you know, you don’t need to be doin’ this.’ But it’s so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she’s lookin’ out for other people.”

The gesture seemed to comfort Giffords and shows that his wife is improving and that her spirit and their personal bond remain strong, he said.

Kelly also said he would be willing to meet with the parents of suspect Jared Loughner. Kelly, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, said they have to be hurting.

Giffords had been in critical condition since the attack but doctors were positive, and at times almost giddy, in describing her progress.

She responded from the moment she arrived at the emergency room, at first just squeezing a doctor’s hand. Then she raised two fingers.

Giffords opened her unbandaged eye shortly after President Barack Obama’s bedside visit Wednesday.

Then, more milestones _ which doctors said were all indicative of higher cognitive function _ were achieved, all with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, at her side.

Kelly asked her to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him. She did more than that. She slowly raised her left arm. By the end of the week, she had moved her legs and arms.

Finally on Sunday, doctors decided to upgrade her condition because a tracheotomy done a day earlier was uneventful, hospital spokeswoman Katie Riley said. A feeding tube was also put in Saturday, and doctors speculated that they might soon know if she could speak.

At the hospital, more than 100 people were gathered amid the sea of get-well balloons and cards when the University of Arizona put out the condition statement.

“Oh, that’s great news,” said Jean Emrick, a 50-year resident of Tucson, as a violinist played in the background.

Her eyes watering, Emrick said: “Tucson is such a special place and she represents what’s the best of southern Arizona.”

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