Update: CBS News released excerpts of an interview with Mark Kelly Sunday night that confirmed the earlier reports that Gabrielle Giffords has been medically cleared and will attend Friday's shuttle launch.
Gabrielle Giffords has been in Houston since Jan. 21 — that's 94 days of living and rehabilitating at the world-renowned TIRR Memorial-Hermann in relative mystery. There have been no photos of the wounded congresswoman, few details released and only infrequent reports.
An Easter Sunday story in the Arizona Republic reveals some of the reasons for this information hold back.
The Republic's piece — culled from interviews with those closet to Giffords, including her husband Mark Kelly, a Houston-based astronaut; and Pia Carusone, her loyal and fiercely protective chief of staff — reports that there are still scars on Giffords' scalp that show through her cut short hair. These are some of the appearance after-affects of being shot in the head, of having a would-be assassin's bullet enter your brain.
This is just one of the reasons that Giffords' staff tells the Republic that they're determined that she gets to decide when to release the first new photo of her.
There are those that aren't willing to wait for Giffords' schedule though. One of the most striking things in the story is Carusone talking about rumors of a $200,000 "reward" bounty for any paparazzi that is able to snap the first photo of Giffords. The paper notes that Giffords has been "invisible" since the Jan. 8 shooting and details the security precautions at TIRR.
Giffords has trouble talking in long sentences, but her staff and Kelly say that she understands everything. The frustration comes in trying to string together the words to say what she means. One of the effects of the shooting is that Giffords, who was always right handed, now writes left handed — a not uncommon result after a bullet wound to the left side of the brain, which controls right-side function.
Dr. Gerard Francisco, chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann, tells the Arizona Republic that Giffords can now stand and walk on her own a little. Use of her right arm and leg are still limited though, another common result from a left-side brain injury.
The TIRR doctors say that Giffords is in the top five percent of patients recovering from her type of brain injury. Still Carusone cautions against wild expectations, noting that everyone close to Giffords is thrilled that she's alive.
The Arizona Republic story details how Giffords yearns to return to Tucson, even keeping an Arizona rock in her hospital room. Her first trip that isn't medically related looks more and more like it will be Kelly's shuttle launch in Florida on Friday, with doctors having cleared her to go.