US congresswoman headed to rehab after assassination attempt
The US lawmaker who was the target of an assassination attempt earlier this month on Friday left the Arizona hospital where she was being treated.
Television images showed an ambulance carrying Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords leaving the University Medical Centre in Tucson, Arizona, surrounded by police and travelling to the airport, dpa reported.
She was transferred to a facility in Houston, where doctors plan to start her rehabilitation process after being shot through the head by a gunman. Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, is an astronaut training for a space shuttle flight in Houston.
Doctors said Giffords would begin rehabilitation immediately, but that a physical therapist would first work with her in the intensive care unit of the Memorial Hermann hospital, which is known for dealing with traumatic brain injuries. A drain remains in her head to remove fluid from her brain, making it necessary for her to stay in intensive care. She will later be moved to a rehabilitation unit.
The part of her skull that was removed to accommodate brain swelling has not yet been replaced.
Well wishers lined the road from her Tucson hospital to the airport. Cheers and applause could be heard inside the ambulance, said Doctor Randall Friese, who accompanied Giffords to Houston.
"She smiled and actually began to tear up a little bit and I think she began to understand the immense support our city has for her," he said.
Though Giffords has still not been able to talk, she has been responding to her caregivers and husband, and her prospects for recovery continue to look excellent, doctors told reporters.
Six people were killed and 13 injured in the January 8 rampage at a Tucson, Arizona shopping centre where Giffords was meeting with constituents.
A federal grand jury filed an initial indictment Wednesday against Jared Lee Loughner, the man who allegedly perpetrated the attack. Further charges will be forthcoming at both the federal and state level and Loughner could face the death penalty, said US attorney Dennis K Burke.