Gabrielle Giffords' Husband Keeps Agonizing Vigil By Her Side

A most unusual couple is thrust into national spotlight.

January 11, 2011, 12:40 AM

Jan. 11, 2011— -- Critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is making a remarkably strong recovery, her doctors said today, but despite the good news a photo of her husband holding her hand while keeping an exhausted vigil by her side clearly showed the agony of the ordeal for her family.

Giffords' doctors were upbeat today on her chance of surviving the shot to her head on Saturday.

"She has a 101 percent chance of surviving," said trauma chief Dr. Peter Rhee said today. "She will not die. She does not have that permission from me."

While Giffords' breathing tube remained in place, her neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole said she is breathing on her own for the first time since the shooting.

Doctors added that Giffords is moving both arms. Two days ago they were delighted that she could raise two fingers and squeeze a hand.

The doctors corrected themselves on one aspect of the wound. They now believe she was shot in the forehead, with the bullet traveling the length of the left side of the brain and exiting the back. They originally believed she was shot in the back of the head and bullet exited her forehead.

Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has been by her side since shortly after she was shot on Saturday, allegedly by 22-year-old Jared Loughner, on Saturday.

The picture of him tenderly holding his wife's hand reinforces an image described by their friends of a couple very much in love.

On Giffords' wedding ring, Kelly inscribed: "You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been" -- words from a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that clearly had special meaning for them.

"She met Mark, and Gabby was so happy. So much in love," said Elaine Richardson, a bridesmaid at Giffords and Kelly's wedding.

They first met in China as part of a U.S. trade mission.

At the time, Giffords, was serving as an Arizona state senator and dating someone else while Kelly was married to another person.

A year later the duo reunited, once again in China.

But this time, fate had intervened.

Both were single, and they found themselves taking long hikes together and bonded over the difficulties of meshing high-powered jobs with marriage and family.

"You can tell how much they love each other, how hard they work to make that relationship work, as they both have many, many responsibilities," said Adam smith, a friend of the couple. "They meet them, and still manage to stay together as a very, very happy couple."

E-mails and letters followed. Giffords sent Kelly an invitation to tour a state prison with her.

The couple married in 2007, at an organic produce farm, in a low-key ceremony.

Enduring a Long Distance Relationship

Once married, they faced their toughest challenge yet: a long distance relationship, as he discovered new frontiers as an astronaut with NASA in Houston and she represented the people of Arizona through the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Despite only seeing each other for a few weeks at a time, Giffords and Kelly were in constant communication.

They are said to both carry iPads, iPhones and Blackberries.

For Giffords, the only distance that did worry her was when her husband was in space.

In an interview last year, Giffords said that launch and re-entry are the most difficult parts of her husband's trips to space.

And yet, in a tragic and ironic twist, it was Giffords' job that proved that proved to be more dangerous of the two – when she was shot in the head at a meet and greet event in her Arizona district.

Six people died in the shooting rampage and wounded 14.

Up until Saturday's tragic shooting, Kelly had been training to command NASA's last space shuttle flight, scheduled for April.

Kelly was in Texas when the shooting occurred and he rushed to be with his wife.

On Sunday, Kelly released the following statement: "On behalf of Gabby and our entire family, I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the people of Arizona and this great nation for their unbelievable outpouring of support. Gabby was doing what she loved most - hearing from her constituents - when this tragedy occurred. Serving Southern Arizonans is her passion, and nothing makes her more proud than representing them in Congress."

Doctors on Monday said they have "a lot of hope" for Giffords' recovery as she is following and communicating through commands.

ABC News' Cameron Brock and Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report.

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