Giffords' recovery inspires Valley man with traumatic brain injury

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PHOENIX -- Among the countless who have closely been watching every step of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' recovery is Phoenix man Adam Pepiton.

On Sept. 5, 2010, Pepiton was shot in the head during a drive-by shooting. He was not the intended target of the attack.

The bullet pierced his brain, entering through the right hemisphere and exiting out the left side.

Doctors removed a piece of his skull to prevent brain swelling, and for weeks he was unable to speak or move much.

Giffords went through much of the same thing after being shot during a Congress on Your Corner event on Jan. 8.

Now, Pepiton is finding inspiration in the congresswoman's remarkable recovery.

"It gives me motivation, like 'Oh, I want to do that' and 'I know I can do that,'" Pepiton said.

In an ABC News interview aired Monday night, the world got its first glimpse of Giffords' struggles and triumphs in rehabilitation.

One of her biggest challenges has been regaining the ability to speak and express herself.

In home video shot by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, we see therapists trying to get Giffords to say the word "chair." Instead she says "spoon" over and over.

Pepiton experienced that difficulty, known as aphasia.

"I went through that phase, too, trying to figure out like what is a table and stuff like that," Pepiton said.

His mother, Tara Pepiton, recalls a time in the months right after his injury when a speech therapist asked what he'd had for breakfast. He responded "gray-ups."

"Gray-ups, what are gray-ups?" the therapist asked. Pepiton responded: "Brown swigs."

"He made the words up, he thought it was the word it was supposed to be," Tara said.

Pepiton has now regained his ability to speak but still cannot stand or walk on his own. But he says he is confident he will eventually be back on his feet.

"Faith, family and friends and seeing what Giffords has done," he said. "I'll be able to get there too one day."

Tara has closely documented her son's recovery through videos and photos over the last 14 months.

"As we all say in a brain injury, it's a marathon, not a sprint in recovery, and so we're in the middle of the marathon and we're just keeping pace and going forward," Tara said.

Tara has set up a website chronicling her son's recovery called Adam Pepiton's Fight for Recovery.