Gabrielle Giffords Returns to Tucson for Short, Private Visit

"We've been dreaming of this trip for some time," said her husband, Mark Kelly.

June 17, 2011 — -- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has returned to Arizona for a brief, private visit with her family this weekend, her husband and officials from her office said today.

"Team: Wheels down Tucson," read a tweet from her Twitter feed Friday evening. "Gabrielle & Mark looking forward to a beautiful weekend."

The congresswoman is expected to make no public appearances during the visit, according to a news release from her office.

For Giffords, the weekend visit is the first time she has been back in Arizona since January, when she was shot in the head at a community event in Tucson, Ariz.

"For five long months, Gabby has been living and working in the rehab facility in Houston," husband Mark Kelly said in the news release. "Now that she is an outpatient, her first priority is coming home to the place that is such a source of strength for her."

Giffords was released from TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital Wednesday.

"It's great for her to be out of the hospital. That's a long time for anybody to be in a hospital bed, in a hospital room," Kelly told a CBS News crew, speaking for the first time on camera since Giffords was released from a Houston hospital.

Giffords was nervous about leaving the hospital where she'd been for nearly five months, Kelly said.

"The people at TIRR were really, really great to her. I mean, we could've not asked for better care and she was a little apprehensive," Kelly said.

Kelly was heading out to run errands and pick up a newspaper for the congresswoman when he spoke with the reporters. Giffords was taking the day off but would soon start making visits to TIRR to continue her outpatient therapy, he said.

"She'll be back there really soon," Kelly told CBS News. "She's going to take the day off today. You know, it's nice to get a little break. She has a nurse with her the whole time. ... She needs that for now. We don't know how long that will last."

The couple are staying at their suburban home near the Johnson Space Center. Kelly recently returned from commanding Space Shuttle Endeavour. Giffords attended his shuttle launch last month and had surgery to replace a portion of her skull while he was on his mission.

She and 13 others were shot outside a Tucson grocery store, where she was meeting with constituents Jan. 8. Six people died.

Kelly's public comments about Giffords' continuing recovery follow the release of the first photos of Giffords since the shooting.

The two photos, released on Giffords' public Facebook page Sunday, were taken before the congresswoman underwent surgery to replace the bone on the left side of her skull and a day after she returned from attending her husband's shuttle launch.

Hidden behind the familiar smile of Giffords in the photographs, however, is the struggle to regain her previous level of communication.

"Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express," Giffords' spokeswoman Pia Carusone told the Associated Press. "But when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that's where she's had the trouble."

Jared Loughner is accused of opening fire at Giffords' Jan. 8 meet-and-greet event.

A federal judge ruled Loughner mentally incompetent to stand trial for the mass shooting.

ABC News' Gina Sunseri, Bob Woodruff and Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.