Turning a new page in her post-shooting life, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords attended Congress last night to take part in the voting on the debt deal.
"The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight," Giffords said in a Facebook post.
The 41-year-old Representative from Tucson had been seriously injured by a gunshot wound to the head when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a crowd which was attending a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event organized by her.
It was the first time she was attending the Congress after the January shooting. The House gave a spontaneous standing ovation when Giffords entered the chamber. Her entry was almost unannounced. But Vice-President Joe Biden said he decided to come to the House after being told that Giffords would attend the session.
"Her presence here ... as well as her entire service to Congress, brings honor to this chamber ... there isn't a name that stirs more admiration," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
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"I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy," Giffords said in a statement.
Giffords’ recovery from the brain injury has been so remarkable that questions about her political future will resurface once again.
Last month, she had made the first public appearance after the shooting when she attended a NASA awards ceremony in Houston. She had been pushed in on a wheel chair but she stood up and applauded when her husband and astronaut Mark Kelly received the Spaceflight medal. She had also smiled and waved to the crowd which gave her a standing ovation.
She was released from the hospital on June 15, five months after the shooting. A few days before her release from the hospital a couple of her photographs were posted on her Facebook profile. Her spokesperson said the photos were being released in order to avoid media frenzy once she was out of hospital to recuperate at her residence.
The photos, which were taken on May 17, had shown some traces of the shooting. Her close cropped hair had covered the surgery scars on the head. Her face showed almost no visible scar of the bullet, which hit her forehead, went through the left side of the brain before exiting the head. But her left eye appeared a tad bit smaller than the right one, the photograph showed. But according to the Giffords team, the photo was taken before doctors performed a skull surgery to implant a synthetic bone and a shunt in the skull.
After the May 19 surgery the doctors had said the shunt was in good position and the implant looked great.
In June, an aide of Giffords had been reported to have said the Congresswoman had made stupendous progress, but her communication skills hadn’t been fully regained. Giffords' comprehension was better but her ability to communicate more fully was still challenged, making it doubtful if she would be able to run for re-election in 2012, chief of staff Pia Caruson had said.
“... When it comes to bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that’s where she’s had the trouble,” Caruson said. Giffords used gestures and facial expressions to communicate basic needs, she had added.
She has until May next year to decide if she wants to run for re-election. Her dramatic appearance in the Congress could mean she was not giving up yet.