Houston rehab center takes over Rep. Giffords' health care

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

HOUSTON, Texas - The recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords moved into its next phase Friday when she was transferred from University Medical Center in Tucson to a Houston rehabilitation facility.

Doctors say the congresswoman's transfer went flawlessly.

The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann got its start as a polio treatment center, eventually evolving into one of the best spinal cord and brain rehabilitation centers in the country.

Giffords was evaluated upon her arrival at the rehabilitation center. Doctors will move quickly because the sooner rehab begins, the better the outcome will likely be.

The comprehensive medical and psychological evaluations are expected to take about three days.

Based on Giffords' injury, which is to the left side of her brain, doctors say they are concerned about movement in the right side of her body. Doctors also say Giffords has a drain in her brain due to fluid buildup so she will stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

Giffords will stay at TIRR Memorial Hermann until she no longer needs 24-hour care. Doctors say that can be anywhere from one to two months. After that, she will probably continue rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.

While Giffords' progress so far has been incredible, exceeding everyone's expectations, doctors say her road to recovery will be a long one.

The congresswoman's husband, Mark Kelly, said Thursday that he is "extremely hopeful" that Giffords will make a "full recovery."

"She is a fighter like nobody else I know, so I am extremely confident that she is going to be back here and back at work soon," he said.

On the eve her move to Tucson, UMC staffers took Giffords to an outside deck at the hospital  to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.