© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mark Kelly: Rep. Giffords' Progress Is 'Great'; But Road To Recovery Is Long

Mark Kelly, husband of the critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), sat down for a round of interviews that have aired in the past 12 hours. The Navy officer and astronaut talked in some detail about the harrowing events of Jan. 8 — when his wife and 18 other people were shot in Tucson, six of them fatally — and her progress since then.

Giffords, who was shot in the head, has opened her eyes, is able to do such things as respond to requests to lift her arms and legs, and has reached out to touch her husband and give him a neck rub.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports that Kelly told Arizona Public Media his wife has also pulled his wedding ring off his finger. She then put it back on him, "fortunately," Kelly joked.

"It's great," he says of the progress that the 40-year-old Giffords has made.

Kelly said that while he and others have been talking to Giffords a lot, she has not been told the details of what happened to her and the others who were attending a meet-and-greet at a strip mall.

"I've told her where she is — that she's at UMC [University Medical Center] and she's got great care," said Kelly. "I introduce her to the doctors and the nurses, but we haven't explained to her what happened."

"The best thing, from what I've been told, is as she starts to ask what happened then you answer the questions," Kelly added.

For the family, Kelly said, among the most difficult moments came that Saturday afternoon when NPR, followed by CNN and Fox News Channel, incorrectly reported that Giffords had died. Kelly has two daughters from a previous marriage.

"We had the news on and it was reported that their step-mother was killed and we lived with that for about 15, 20 minutes," Kelly said. "It was devastating to them and my mother, who was there, and me. ... But that was, like, the lowest of the low point and ever since then everything's been positive."

NPR News corrected that report and issued apologies the next day. NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard has written about how the mistake hurt the Giffords family and how it happened.

Jeff also filed two reports for NPR's newscast about what Kelly told Arizona Public Media:

In other interviews, Kelly told Tucson's KOLD-TV that Giffords "is not going to let this thing that happened take her out. I mean she is going to make a full recovery. I don't know what the future holds for her, what she's going to want to do, but she's a fighter."

On ABC-TV's 20/20, though, Kelly told Diane Sawyer that "at times I'm 100 percent confident that she's going to make a 100 percent recovery. ... And, you know, at other times I don't know."

ABC also writes that Kelly said he and Giffords had spoken "dozens of times" about how "risky" Giffords' job is. He does not, however, believe the coarse political climate in the nation played a part in the tragedy.

"I don't. It certainly didn't cause this," Kelly said.

He said the man arrested for the attack, Jared Loughner, is "really, really disturbed, possibly schizophrenic."

Here is the video ABC News has posted about its interview with Kelly:

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET: CNN and The New York Times are reporting that Giffords will be moved to a Houston rehabilitation center on Friday.

The Times quotes an e-mail sent by Giffords' mother, describing her daughter's amazing recovery:

According to the e-mail, Ms. Giffords scrolled through photographs on her husband's iPhone, tried to undo his tie and shirt and even began to look at get-well cards and pages of large-print text taken from a Harry Potter book.

Still, what's to come will be tough:

In one passage, Mrs. Giffords wrote: "They are even now having her move limbs on command. So now comes the 'true grit' part... and won't be a stroll in a park although Mark predicts she'll be up and walking around in 2 weeks."

The Tucson hospital where Giffords is at now has not provided independent confirmation of the move.

Update 6:32 p.m.: The video of the APM interview:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.