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Giffords to be transferred to rehab center

January 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The amazing recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues after she was shot in the brain nearly two weeks ago in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords is being prepared for the next big step in her rehabilitation. She was able to stand up with help on Wednesday and even looked out her hospital window.

She'll be released from the hospital on Friday and will be taken to one of the top rehab facilities in the country.

In an email obtained by the New York Times, Giffords' mother told friends and family the congresswoman recently scrolled through pictures on her husband's iPhone, tried to untie his tie and even looked at get-well cards.

Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, is convinced that she will be walking in no time.

"She is a fighter like nobody else that I know. So I am extremely confident that she's going to be back here and back at work soon," said Kelly.

The next step in an arduous journey to recovery is extensive rehabilitation in which she will have to relearn how to think and plan.

It's unclear if 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.

Giffords will be airlifted on Friday to Memorial Hermann Tirr Hospital in Houston, Texas.

The world renowned facility has helped patients, such as Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett. After a spine injury, Everett was told he would never walk again, but he proved everyone wrong.

Doctors said a big part of Giffords' therapy so far has been exposure to sunlight.

"The first step is we got her into a chair and wheeled her to a window so she's able to look at the mountains. The next step is to simply, literally, get her out to a deck where there is open exposure to sunlight," said Dr. Michael Lemole. "We know that when people start to see that regular diurnal rhythm, day in, day out, it starts to reorient them to the lifestyle they had before."

Kelly said one thing that has kept his wife going is support from the community, such as when 9-year-old Isaac Saldana sold his toys at school and sent the $2 in profits to help with Giffords' recovery.

"It almost made me cry," said Kelly.

In the meantime, a federal grand jury has indicted the suspected gunman in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage that killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords.

The indictment charges 22-year-old Jared Loughner with trying to assassinate Giffords and attempting to kill two of her aides. It does not include two murder charges listed in an earlier criminal complaint.

Federal prosecutors said the indictment is just the beginning in a slew of charges against Loughner.

Loughner is in federal custody. He is set for a preliminary hearing on Monday in Phoenix.