HOUSTON – Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was discharged on Wednesday from the Houston hospital where she has been recovering since she was shot in the head at a meeting with constituents in January, the hospital said.
TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital said in a statement that Giffords will soon begin outpatient treatment at the same facility. The Arizona Democrat's cognitive abilities and physical strength have improved, it said.
"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the hospital's chief medical officer. "We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."
Giffords was shot in the head at close range by a gunman who opened fire at her and a crowd of bystanders at a political event on January 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. Twelve other people also were wounded, and six were killed, including a federal judge, a young girl and one of Giffords' aides.
The 22-year-old college dropout charged with the shooting, Jared Loughner, was recently declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent back to a Missouri hospital for federal prisoners last month.
The congresswoman spent the first three weeks after the shooting hospitalized in Tucson, then was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston on January 21 to begin rehabilitation.
Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin told Reuters on Sunday that her abilities are improving weekly and that discussions were under way for Giffords to resume more active duties with her congressional office.
On Sunday, the first photos of Giffords since she was shot were released on her Facebook page. Taken the day before Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery and the day after the launch of the Endeavour space shuttle mission commanded by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, the photographs showed a smiling Giffords with very short hair, a scar on her throat from her tracheotomy and a slight indentation to her left temple, where a piece of her skull was still missing.
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