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Giffords and her staff struggle through recovery together

Washington Post / February 28, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Friends and colleagues who have visited Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s room at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston say she is getting better every day.

The congresswoman wears a helmet designed with colors of the Arizona flag when she goes to therapy. With it off, her friends say, she looks like herself. Her hair is growing back; the wounds on her head are healing.

She listens, smiles, and frowns at appropriate moments. She speaks single words even though she cannot carry on a conversation. Her eyes brighten when she sees visitors she recognizes, and sometimes she tears up when they leave.

The healing is proceeding in small steps — not just in the hospital room but also in Giffords’s office in Tucson. Her staff tends to business while fitting in visits to therapists.

The office of an aide slain in last month’s shootings sat vacant until recently, his colleagues too devastated to assign it to another staffer.

Her staff believes Giffords will fully recover. Each visitor brings back news of familiar gestures and words of recognition.

“We are like a family, and this was uncharted territory,’’ said C.J. Karamargin, her communications director.

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