Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, wife of retired astronaut Mark Kelly, is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head that she suffered earlier this year. But, if her condition continues to improve, she is thinking about returning to Capitol Hill.
In an on-camera interview that aired Monday (Nov. 14), on "20/20," ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Giffords — the wife of former space shuttle commander Mark Kelly — if she wants to come back to Congress. Giffords (D-Ariz.) has been away since the Jan. 8 assasination attempt at a Tucson grocery story that left her gravely wounded and six people dead.
"No, better," said Giffords, who has made tremendous recuperative strides but still has trouble putting all of her thoughts into words.
Kelly jumped in at this point, explaining that his wife meant that she wants to get better first. Sawyer then asked if that meant Giffords wants to go back to Capitol Hill if her condition improves sufficiently.
"Yes, yes, yes," Giffords said.
The doctors and therapists working with Giffords expressed optimism that she could make it happen, citing the progress she's made since the shooting that nearly killed her.
Just four months after the shooting, for example, Giffords traveled to Florida to watch Kelly blast off on the shuttle Endeavour's final mission. In early August, the congresswoman also went back to Capitol Hill to cast a key vote for a bill that raised the United States' debt ceiling.
ABC also broadcast more recent footage, which showed Giffords laughing, walking, talking and singing.
"She hasn't plateaued, she's not going to plateau," Dr. Nancy Helm-Estabrooks of Western Carolina University, Giffords' speech pathologist, said during the ABC broadcast. "If Gabby thinks she can go back to Congress, she can."
Kelly also professed confidence in his wife's ability to do anything she puts her mind to, and he said he'd support whatever decision Giffords eventually makes.
"I'll do my best to protect her in whatever she chooses to do," Kelly told Sawyer. "You don't ever want to feel like you've been beaten, or taken out."
Kelly commanded the space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 flight, which was the second-to-last mission before the 30-year program was retired in July. The veteran astronaut flew on three previous space shuttle missions but has since retired from NASA to spend more time with his family and focus on Giffords' recovery.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.