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Giffords will stay at Memorial Hermann until she no longer needs 24-hour medical care _ the average is one to two months. Then she can continue getting up to five hours a day of physical and other rehab therapies on an outpatient basis, Josehart said.

“It’s hard to speculate on the trajectory or course that any one patient will have,” he said.

Despite the steady progress, Giffords has a long road to recovery. Doctors are not sure what, if any, disability she will have.

Sometimes, areas of the brain that seem damaged can recover, said Mark Sherer, a neuropsychologist at the rehab center.

“Some of the tissue is temporarily dysfunctional, so the patient appears very impaired very early on after the injury,” but may not be permanently damaged, he said.

A gunman shot Giffords and 18 other people Jan. 8 as she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died and the others wounded. All survivors, except Giffords, have been released from hospitals.

The suspect in the attack, Jared Loughner, 22, of Tucson, is being held in federal custody.

“The last 12 days have been extraordinarily difficult for myself, my family, but not only us,” Kelly said. “I think it’s been very difficult for the city of Tucson, southern Arizona and our country.

Kelly added that Giffords would be proud of the way Tucson has responded. Memorials continued to grow Thursday outside the hospital, in front of her office and at the scene of the shooting.

“I know one of the first things Gabby is going to want to do as soon as she’s able to is start writing thank you notes,” he said.

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Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione and Ramit Plushnick-Masti reported from Houston. AP aerospace writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this story from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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