She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes.
The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation.
Children sat on their parents’ shoulders as the motorcade passed. Many waved. Others carried signs wishing “Gabby” well.
“It was very emotional and very special,” said Dr. Randall Friese, who traveled with Giffords.
By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately.
After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center’s rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann.
Giffords has “great rehabilitation potential,” said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann.
“She will keep us busy, and we will keep her busy as well,” he said.
The first thing is to determine the extent of Giffords’ injuries and the impact on her abilities to move and communicate. She hasn’t spoken yet, and it’s unknown whether she will suffer permanent disabilities.
A gunman shot Giffords and 18 other people on Jan. 8 as she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died. The suspect in the attack, Jared Loughner, 22, is being held in federal custody.
Since she was hospitalized at University Medical Center in Tucson, Giffords has made progress nearly every day, with characteristically cautious surgeons calling her improvement remarkable.