Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Arrives in Houston to Begin Rehab

Leaving Tucson hospital, Giffords smiled when she heard applause from crowds.

ByABC News
January 21, 2011, 11:47 AM

Jan. 21, 2010— -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has arrived in Houston, where she'll begin the next step of her recovery focusing on rehabilitation at a renowned brain injury facility at the Texas Medical Center.

Giffords landed at Houston's Hobby Airport shortly after 1 p.m. CST and immediately was transported to TIRR Memorial-Hermann Hospital via medical helicopter. She is now in the hospital's ICU, surrounded by her family.

Before departing for Houston this morning, Giffords left the Tucson hospital where she had been treated since suffering a gunshot to her head in an attack nearly two weeks ago. She was the last shooting victim to leave the hospital.

Cheered by crowds of well-wishers, Giffords was taken by ambulance to a nearby Air Force base where a specially equipped private plane was ready to carry her to Texas.

Giffords was accompanied to Houston by her astronaut husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, her doctors, and her mother, Gloria Giffords.

Along her roughly 10-mile route to the Air Force base, crowds of supporters stood on the curb, cheering and waving flags and signs as her motorcade passed by. Giffords' ambulance was escorted by a squadron of military veterans on motorcycles.

"We could hear applause in the ambulance with Gabby, and she responded very well to that, smiling and even tearing a little bit," said Dr. Randall Friese, one of the doctors who treated Giffords in Tucson. "It was very emotional and very special."

At a press conference in Houston late this afternoon, Giffords' medical team said today's trip went flawlessly and that while she has a long road ahead, she has great potential for rehabilitation.

Now that her Tucson team has handed over responsibility for Giffords' care, they said their goodbyes and will return to Arizona.

"I'm going to miss her a lot," said Tracy Culbert, the nurse who cared for Giffords over the last two weeks in Tucson and accompanied her on the plane today. "She's a very gentle person, and her personality is coming out with touches. ... I'm very lucky to know her."