Giffords asks for toast -- her first words since shooting
Astronaut husband hopeful she can attend space launch in two months
GABRIELLE Giffords, the US congresswoman shot in the head one month ago, has startled nursing staff by sitting up in her bed and asking for toast.
It was the first time she had spoken since she was shot in the forehead, her spokesman said.
The pace of her recovery has wildly outstripped expectations and she is speaking "more and more," according to spokesman CJ Karamargin.
"She's working very hard and it's paying off," he said.
"We always knew Gabby is a fighter and that she's not going to let this thing win. And, you know, every day is proof of that."
Six people, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the attack outside a grocery store where Ms Giffords was meeting with constituents. Thirteen people, including Ms Giffords, were injured.
In a Facebook post Ms Giffords' husband Mark Kelly said his wife had her appetite back and was eating three times a day, "even though it's hospital food".
"It is hard to believe that only one month has passed since Gabrielle was shot," he wrote. "The doctors say she is recovering at lightning speed considering her injury but they aren't kidding when they say this is a marathon process."
He said "there are encouraging signs every day", pointing to her renewed appetite.
"Your prayers are being heard, so don't stop," he wrote.
Mr Kelly said he wants the families of the other victims and the entire Tucson community to know that his wife "will soon stand by your side to mourn this tragedy and learn how we can heal".
Her doctor has also revealed that he hopes the wounded congresswoman can make enough progress to attend her husband's space launch in two months, describing it as "a goal for us to work towards" as many in Arizona paused to mark one month since she was shot at a political event.
The space shuttle Endeavour will leave April 19 for a two-week mission to the International Space Station, and astronaut Mark Kelly announced last week that he would be aboard and expected his wife to see him off.
But Dr Gerard Francisco said doctors would have to decide on a variety of medical issues for that to happen, including whether Ms Giffords can fly to Cape Canaveral, Florida, how much assistance she would need and how much noise she can tolerate.
"It's too early to say. It's only early February," said Dr Francisco, the head of Ms Giffords' rehabilitation team at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston.
He said Ms Giffords was doing "very well," but wouldn't provide details, including whether she is able to speak or if she has been told about the attack.
By appearances, Tucson has largely returned to normal since six people were killed in the January 8 shootings.
Massive makeshift memorials to the victims have been dismantled and boxed in locked storage for a future permanent memorial. The supermarket has reopened.
But the 13 survivors are struggling with their injuries and the emotional scars left behind.
"People come up and hug me and I just start bawling," said Susan Hileman (58), who survived three gunshot wounds.
"And they feel so bad for making me cry but my husband says, 'It's all right, it's what we do these days.'"