The Giffords Miracle


CNN reports that her doctors estimate Gabrielle Giffords could be out of the hospital as soon as “days to weeks.”  She has recovered nicely from an operation to repair a fracture in her right eye socket, removing bone fragments created by the bullet impact and rebuilding the socket with a wire mesh.  Her doctors have not established whether she can see out of her damaged eye yet.  On Sunday, her condition was upgraded from critical to serious.

This is an astonishing, and wonderful, recovery from a horrific wound.  Giffords was shot in the face with a 9mm handgun at point-blank range.  You won’t find a doctor in her hospital who doesn’t speak of miracles.

Giffords’ husband, astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, spoke about her recovery with Diane Sawyer for a special episode of ABC’s 20/20 to air Tuesday night.  “If I hold her hand, she’ll play with my wedding ring… The reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she’s done that before. She’ll do that if we’re sitting in a restaurant. She’ll do the same exact movements.”  Giffords can’t speak because of a breathing tube in her throat, but touching her husband’s wedding ring sends a message eloquent enough to humble the most accomplished orator.

Kelly is scheduled to command the final space shuttle mission, designated STS134, in April.  His crew used Twitter to say, “Gabby is improving, Mark is strong… STS134 will succeed.”  The captain’s faith that his wife will complete her journey and return to him is unshakeable.  She has responded well to tests of higher cognitive function, most remarkably giving her husband a thumbs-up when he asked if she could hear him, and delivering a gentle neck massage while he kept her company in the intensive-care unit.  She’s been able to move both her legs and arms.

A long period of rehabilitation awaits the congresswoman after she’s released from the hospital.  The Washington Post wondered this morning if Arizona statutes might force her to retire her seat in Congress, but concluded they are not legally applicable to her office.  (And, as National Review’s Jim Geraghty put it, “Who wants to be the Arizonan leading the charge to get Gabrielle Giffords removed from office?”) 

The Congresswoman has a very important job, and once her rehabilitation is under way, I’m sure she and her husband will make reasoned decisions about the discharge of her duties.  I hope that’s an easy decision, leading to a career of distinguished service, punctuated by spirited re-election campaigns.

On the night of the Tucson attacks, I said that Captain Kelly would be on that space shuttle mission, and Gabrielle Giffords would be there to wish him farewell and safe return.  I’ll stand by that wholly unscientific diagnosis.  Wonders bloom beneath the crushing weight of evil, and the ultimate triumph of hope over despair can be seen in the gentle touch of a woman’s hand upon her husband’s wedding ring.