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Giffords's husband leaves her bedside for shuttle mission

THE astronaut husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has decided to go ahead with his shuttle space flight in April.

An official close to the space shuttle programme confirmed that Mark Kelly will be aboard 'Endeavour' for its final flight.

Mr Kelly took leave from training for the mission after Ms Giffords was shot in the head at a Tucson, Arizona, shopping centre on January 8.

She is currently undergoing intensive rehab in Houston.

Mr Kelly spent the past month debating whether to step down as commander of the two-week mission. Lift-off is scheduled for April 19.

When Mr Kelly blasts into space in April, it will mean leaving his wounded wife to continue her rehab without him for at least a few weeks.

She has limited movement on her right side, and no one has said if she can speak.

This week Mr Kelly tweeted: "Today was a huge day for GG. Lots of progress!"


His decision to take a risky rocket ride so early in her recovery may seem startling. But those who know the couple, as well as doctors and rehabilitation experts, say it's a personal choice. And for this modern, high-powered couple, not an extreme one.

"I don't think he can lose either way," said Dr Louann Brizendine, a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco and author of 'The Male Brain' and 'The Female Brain'.

"It's a one-time opportunity perhaps for him. It's what he's trained to do, and also he would only leave if he knew she was in super-good care," Brizendine added.

Research shows a strong social support network -- family, friends, church or similar -- is crucial for rehabilitating patients and improves the outcome. But that doesn't mean a spouse has to be there "24-7, 365 days", said Dr David Lacey, medical director of acute inpatient rehab services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina.

By now, Giffords (40) should be at a stage where there's little risk of complications, Lacey noted.

The shooting rampage in Tucson left six dead and 13 injured.

Irish Independent