Giffords to visit hometown of Tucson this weekend

PHOENIX - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' staff says the Arizona congresswoman will visit Tucson over the weekend, her first time back to her hometown since January.

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin says Giffords will make no public appearances and will grant no interviews during her visit.

Giffords' astronaut husband Mark Kelly said in a news release that they've "been dreaming of this trip for some time."

He says that Giffords misses Tucson and that her doctors say returning home could play an important role in her recovery.

He says the trip is sure to be very emotional.

Giffords was released from the hospital Wednesday, five months after being shot in the head during a Tucson political event.

On Thursday, Gifford's husband Mark Kelly told a CBS News crew outside his Houston house that Giffords was "a little apprehensive" about leaving TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, where she spent months recovering from a gunshot wound to the head -- but she was looking forward to going home to Arizona and that could happen soon.

Despite Giffords' departure from the hospital Wednesday, she still has a long, arduous journey ahead of her.

She struggles to speak and walk, and will continue daily, intensive therapy for months, and possibly years. Whether she will ever recover enough to resume her congressional duties is still unknown.

Yet doctors, her astronaut husband Kelly and experts who have been observing Giffords' recovery emphasize that going home is a key milestone and could help stimulate her progress.

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Kelly said in a statement released by the hospital. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her."

Giffords will still go to the hospital each day where she will participate in speech, music, physical and occupational therapy with the same team that has treated her since she arrived in Houston in late January.

Now, however, at the end of each day "she will be with her family," Kelly said.

The congresswoman is now in Kelly's home in League City, a suburb near the Johnson Space Center, where she will have 24-hour help from a home care assistant.

The 41-year-old was shot in the left side of the brain, the part that controls speech and communication, on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker and members of her staff.

Giffords' Chief of Staff Pia Carusone recently gave the first clear indication of how slowly Giffords is recovering. After months of optimistic, rosy reports from Giffords' doctors, staff and family, Carusone said that while the congresswoman can speak, she struggles to express complex thoughts and sentences.

"Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing," Carusone told the Arizona Republic.

"Add it all together, and she's able to express the basics of what she wants or needs," Carusone said. "But when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that's where she's had the trouble."

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