Less than two weeks after surviving a bullet through the brain, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords stood up and looked out the window of her hospital room Wednesday as she prepares to move to Houston to begin an arduous journey of intensive mental and physical rehabilitation.
Giffords' family hopes to move the Arizona congresswoman on Friday to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where her husband, Mark Kelly, lives and works as an astronaut.
TIRR Memorial Hermann is a 116-bed rehabilitation facility that is part of the Texas Medical Center, and one of its success stories is Kevin Everett, a Buffalo Bills tight end who was treated after a life-threatening spinal cord injury in 2007.
Everett was paralyzed from the neck down when he arrived at the rehab center in September 2007; now he can walk.
Hospital spokeswoman Janet Stark said Giffords was able to stand with assistance from medical staff Wednesday in another major milestone in her recovery.
The next step is extensive rehabilitation in which she will have to relearn how to think and plan. It is unclear whether she is able to speak or how well she can see. And while she is moving both arms and legs, it's uncertain how much strength she has on her right side.
Her swift transition from an intensive-care unit to a rehab center is based on the latest research, which shows that the sooner rehab starts, the better the patient recovers.
"I am extremely hopeful at the signs of recovery that my wife has made since the shooting," Kelly said in a statement released by Giffords' congressional office.
Dr. John Holcomb, a retired Army colonel who is a trauma surgeon at the Houston hospital, praised the care she received in Tucson and said Giffords would "move quickly toward a tailored and comprehensive rehab plan."
Giffords was shot in the forehead Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. She remains in serious condition. Her recovery has amazed her family and impressed her doctors, who say she is improving every day.
Over the weekend, Giffords was weaned off the ventilator and had her breathing tube replaced with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. Doctors also inserted a feeding tube to boost her calorie intake and repaired her right eye socket, which was damaged by the bullet.
Since being taken off sedation, Giffords has been alert and opening her eyes more often. She also started rigorous physical therapy, dangling her legs over her bedside to exercise her muscles and sitting in a chair for periods at a time. Kelly told ABC in an interview that she gave him a neck rub.
Still, the extent of her wound and the long-term prognosis won't be known for some time.
In another development, Jared L. Loughner was indicted by a federal grand jury in the shooting rampage. Loughner, 22, is accused of three counts of attempted murder in an initial three-count indictment, according to a statement Thursday by U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, surveillance footage of the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson showed that U.S. District Judge John M. Roll used his body as a shield to cover a wounded man. Roll then took a bullet to the back, and lost his life.
"The judge is a hero," Pima County Sheriff's Chief Rick Kastigar said.