Giffords Raises Her Left Arm for Friends, Who Call Action a `Miracle'

Early this month, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords raised her right hand and swore an oath to the Constitution. Yesterday evening, she lifted her left arm, in a sign friends took to mean that Giffords, shot in the head in an attack in Arizona, will make a full recovery.

“It felt like a miracle,” said Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who visited Giffords in a Tucson hospital along with friends and family after President Barack Obama dropped by yesterday afternoon. “It felt like we were watching a miracle.”

“She wanted to tell us ‘I am here, I can hear you,’” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, recounting the story for reporters aboard Air Force One on the return flight to Washington. “I am with you and I appreciate everything you’re doing,” was the message, Gillibrand said.

Obama had left the hospital room just moments earlier and Gillibrand, Wasserman Schultz and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were gathered around their friend’s bed, laughing, joking, and planning their next pizza excursion. Five days earlier a bullet had entered -- and exited -- the left lobe of Giffords’ brain, allegedly fired by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner in a rampage that left six people dead.

Source: Giffords for Congress via Bloomberg

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Close

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

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Source: Giffords for Congress via Bloomberg

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, hadn’t seen his wife open her eyes since the attack. Yesterday, with half her face bandaged and breathing through a tube, Giffords began to respond. First, she squeezed Gillibrand’s hand. Then she fought to open her one undressed eye.

‘Compassion Over Conflict’

“She’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s good, maybe thirty seconds where she’s really trying to get her eyes open,” said Gillibrand, “Then she finally opens her eyes and you could tell that she was desperately trying to focus.”

Obama and his wife Michelle stayed with Giffords for nine minutes before visiting other patients and their family members. It was their first stop before attending a memorial service to honor victims of the Jan. 8 shooting spree.

Obama asked Americans to choose compassion over conflict in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

“The truth is, none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack,” Obama said at the memorial service. “What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do.”

Prior to the speech, the three lawmakers along with Giffords’ mother and husband witnessed something more intimate.

Photographer: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here, visited Giffords in a Tucson hospital. Close

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here, visited Giffords in a Tucson hospital.

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Photographer: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here, visited Giffords in a Tucson hospital.

“The only experience that’s similar is when you have a child,” said Gillibrand. Wasserman Schultz agreed.

‘Thumbs Up’

After Giffords opened her eye, Kelly prodded her to give the room the thumbs up to signal that she could hear them.

“Instead of giving the thumbs up, she literally raises her whole arm like this,” Gillibrand said, grabbing a reporter’s free hand hoisting it into the air. “Then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching and starts to really choke him.”

“She was clearly trying to hug him,” she said. “We were just in tears of joys watching this and beyond ourselves.”

The lawmakers said that doctors treating Giffords were impressed. “The doctor said that is really significant progress and he starts pounding out a message on his BlackBerry,” Gillibrand said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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