Only two weeks after being shot in the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is now able to stand with some assistance.
With this latest milestone, doctors say the congresswoman is stable enough to move to the rehabilitation phase of her recovery.
"When she's medically stable, there's really no reason to keep her there," where she risks getting infections and other complications long known to plague patients with long hospital stays, said Dr. Steve Williams, rehab chief at Boston Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine.
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"Over the last five to 10 years, there has been a big push to getting patients rapidly to rehab," he said, because research shows the earlier therapy begins, the faster and better a patient will recover.
During therapy, Giffords will have to re-learn both physical and cognitive functions as she recovers frontal lobe functions.
"The rehab is going to be pretty intense for her, both cognitively and physically," said Dr. Reid Thompson, neurosurgery chief at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
"She's going to have to relearn how to think, plan, organize," he said. Doctors are uncertain how much strength the congresswoman has on her right side. It is also unclear how well she can speak or see.
Nevertheless, her progress so far has left her family optimistic that she will soon return to full health.
"I'm extremely hopeful that Gabrielle is going to make a full recovery," Giffords' astronaut husband Mark Kelly said at a news conference at University Medical Center. "She is a fighter like nobody else that I know."
"In two months, you'll see her walking through the front door of this building," he added.
Giffords' family plans to move her to rehabilitation facility in Houston as early as Friday.