January 13th, 2011
11:15 AM ET

Giffords' progress a source of jubilation

CNN Wire Staff

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) - They described it as "a miracle."

Shot in the head less than a week ago, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes briefly for the first time Wednesday, with her husband, her parents and other members of Congress in the room.

"It was extraordinary," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who was holding Giffords' hand at the time. "It was a miracle to witness."

The incident occurred shortly after President Barack Obama had visited Giffords in her hospital room. Less than an hour later, given permission to disclose the information by Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, Obama electrified a memorial-service crowd and a national television audience by revealing one of the most promising pieces of news about Gifford's condition to emerge since an assassination attempt against her on Saturday.

Giffords was squeezing and stroking Gillibrand's hand, as doctors previously said she had been able to do.

Giffords "absolutely could hear everything we were saying," Gillibrand said. "And Debbie (Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida) and I were telling her how much she was inspiring the nation with her courage, her strength, and we were talking about the things we wanted to do as soon as she was better."

Gillibrand mentioned having another night out with Giffords and her husband for beer and pizza. And Wasserman Schultz recounted telling her, "Come on, you've got to get better, because we expect you up in New Hampshire this summer" at Wasserman Schultz's vacation home.

"And just as I said that, that's when she suddenly was struggling to open ... her eyes," Wasserman Schultz said. "First just a little bit. And the doctors couldn't believe it. They said, 'This is such a good time.' "

Kelly saw her struggling, Gillibrand said, and he and the others began to encourage her, saying, "Open your eyes, Gabby. Open your eyes."

And Giffords did - actually opening only one eye, as the other remains bandaged, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

"She took a moment to focus, you could see she was focusing," Gillibrand said. "And then Mark said ... 'Gabby, if you can see me, if you can see me, give us a thumbs-up ... She didn't only give a thumbs-up, she literally raised her entire hand. We were just - we couldn't stop crying ... It was just one of those moments that life brings you so rarely."

But Giffords didn't stop there, Gillibrand said. She reached out and grabbed her husband "and is touching him and starts to really choke him like she was really trying to hug him." He asked her to touch his wedding ring, "and she touches his ring, then she grabs his whole watch and wrist and then the doctor was just so excited, he said, 'You don't understand ... this is amazing what she is doing right now and beyond our greatest hopes.'"

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Tyrone


    White America and the “NRA” DO NOT have clean hands in the Arizona shooting! There need to do nothing to screen idiot and criminals from getting guns led to these murders in Arizona! White America live in fear of everything and end up many times killing someone in their family! By white Americans continually voting in Republicans that vote to do nothing to protect Americans! These incidents will happen! But promote guns and the “NRA” that arms criminals and white men that murder their children and wives! Hate and divide the protocol of the Republican Party and their Tea Party sidekicks are also to blame! Sarah Palin is also to blame for putting crossfire and a map on the very District that was attacked! Her irresponsible decision put her in the blame corner! The nut that murder 6 and injure 14 was working on hate and mental illness! This incident must bring America to talk about white on white crime! White Americans must be re-educate and taught what America needs to be the greatest! IT IS NOT GUNS!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    The doctors of representative Gifford are not at liberty ethically to discuss her condition or its prognosis, not even with Dr. Gupta!!
    All this hopeful chatter is misplaced sympathy and expectations which the Doctors in charge will have prognosticated on in general terms to family members. The down side risks and upside possibilities. Actually the tendency internationally is not to raise hopes with brain injuries relatives rather play up the downside possibilities.
    The Doctors know but no-one (outside immediate family) knows the precise trajectory of the bullet ( QED prognosis) that entered the back of her head and exited somewhere. This is critical to even any prognosis of how her recovery may or may not end up.
    Also there was bleeding within the brain cavity and we all should remeber that even blood leakage "can" damage brain cells irreparably. I know thats what happened when my wife had internal brain beeding trauma.
    The good recovery ( with some impediments) of a couple of people you mention are in the top 1%.
    For the sake of the family please stop these optimistic posts. Whatever happens she will not be 100% as she was before.
    I wish for her the best possible recovery and future life.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  3. Nikki Groves

    Praise The Lord!! Oh this is trully Miraculous, I am so very happy that the Lord is hearing all the millions of prayers being said on behalf of this amazing woman, I am trully happy, she is an inspiration to so very many!! May God Continue to Bless Her and Her Family as they fight the fight ahead of them, I have a really good feeling that she will be better than ever and long before the doctor's have predicted, she is one very strong willed young lady, oh I am so happy I could go on and on, but I won't! All the best to you all!xo

    January 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Her progress so far is remarkable and uplifting to read about. Even though I don't know what to reasonably expect with progress from this type of injury, the news of her progress is just amazing. I hope it continues and that her family and friends continue to inspire her to come back to them all.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  5. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I pray GODSSPEED on Congresswoman Giffords. I thank him for what he has already done for her, and I pray that every one who was at that rally can soon find some peace. I know that GOD left each and every one of them here for a 'special' reason. So I hope they all seek GODS will for their lives and start doing it. I pray that the ones who were taken away from us rest in peace now, in the bossom of the LORD. May the wrath of GOD deal IT'S justice on the demon possessed killer JARED LOUGHNER and any others.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  6. Mr. James C. Ellis Sr.

    I hope she makes a full recovery and then she should run for President. Better yet I hope Snippy Sarah Palin runs against her and loses by a landslide. Sarah may not be at fault but her commonet was ignorant and wrong. Like a Dad telling a child I say to Sarah she should responsibly apologize for her offensive commnets and Tim Pawlenty shouldnt kmake excuses for her. They epitomize the unfairly elite who think their opinions dont stink while their comments give them away.Listen our American Family Daddy President Obama and be kind to each other Gosh Golly Gee!

    January 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |