Hospital: Giffords moves to rehab facility Friday

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TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) - Fresh from a sunny outing that brought a smile, Gabrielle Giffords is moving to a Houston rehab center where her husband hopes the “fighter” continues on the path to a full recovery.

University Medical Center staffers took the wounded congresswoman to a deck at the hospital Thursday, where she breathed in the fresh air and felt the sun, trauma surgeon Peter Rhee said.

“I saw the biggest smile she could gather,” Rhee said. “We are very happy to have her enjoying the sunshine of Arizona.”

Giffords has been making progress nearly every day in her recovery from a bullet wound to the brain.

Doctors ticked off other markers of her continuing improvement: She scrolled through an iPad, picked out different colored objects and moved her lips. They are unsure whether she is mouthing words, nor do they know how much she is able to see.

Her husband, Houston-based astronaut Mark Kelly, believes she has tried to speak and can recognize those around her.

“I can just look in her eyes and tell,” Kelly said at a final briefing Thursday at the Tucson hospital. “She is very aware of the situation.”

On Friday morning he tweeted: “GG going to next phase of her recover today. Very grateful to the docs and nurses at UMC, Tucson PD, Sheriffs Dept….Back in Tucson ASAP!”

Kelly said he hopes she’ll make a full recovery.

Congresswoman Giffords is a fighter,” her aide C.J. Karamargin said Friday on CBS’ “Early Show. “She’s as tough as nails. She’s communicated with her husband in positive ways,” he added, calling it a sign that she’ll be “back very soon. There’s no question about it.”

The doctors who will help her offered a more sober outlook.

“Not everyone always gets 100 percent restoration, but we help them to get to a new normal,” said Carl Josehart, chief executive of the rehab hospital that will be the Arizona congresswoman’s home for the next month or two.

Giffords is expected to be moved on Friday morning, traveling by ambulance to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base with an escort from a group of motorcycle riders from a Veterans of Foreign Wars post who know her.

Several dozen people gathered about a block from the hospital’s main entrance to see Giffords off Friday morning.

“We want to be here to help her and show her a good farewell, and hope that she has a great recovery,” said Al Garcia, a Marine veteran who came on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. “It’s through all of these prayers that she’s leaving in just two weeks.”

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