Neurosurgeon talks about Giffords trip to Florida


by Kristine Harrington

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 27 at 8:47 PM

PHOENIX - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left her Houston hospital room Wednesday and boarded a plane to Florida where she will watch her astronaut husband Mark Kelly launch off for the last time Friday. This, an important step in her recover from a bullet wound to the head, suffered at a political event in Tucson early this year.

Much of the Congresswoman’s progress has been kept private but today she could be seen clearly making huge strides in her recovery walking, largely on her own, up the stairs of the jet that took her to Florida.
“At the moment she's transitioning from a very very sick person in the beginning to somebody like a disabled person in a recuperation phase,” said Dr. Peter Nakaji, a neurosurgeon with the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's. 
Dr. Nakaji  doesn't treat the congresswoman but called her recovery remarkable and believes this trip to Cape Canaveral will aide in her further recovery.
“I think for her this will be another form of rehabilitation, a chance to get out, interact with more people, encounter some challenges, move self and be moved, be in a more varied environment,” he said.
For some time following the shooting, it wasn't’t clear if Mark Kelly would continue to command the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
“What we are most excited about is the progress of Congresswoman Giffords that allowed him to continue training,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. “It's truly a human story of triumph over tragedy the fact he will continue on this mission and we couldn't be prouder.”
Giffords is still vulnerable, wearing a helmet to protect her brain and traveling with a nurse.
Still, just four months after being shot in the head, she's now in Florida where she will attend a pre-launch BBQ and watch her husband take off Friday from a private area with family.
“I think everything she does is remarkable at this point,” said Dr. Nakaji
And this trip promises to not only be eye opening for the Congresswoman but for her doctors too. Mark Kelly has said he's excited to see what more progress she makes during the two weeks he's gone.