First Photos of Giffords Released Since Shooting

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Less than six months after being shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket, new photographs of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. have been released.

The pictures, posted Sunday on Facebook, show a smiling Giffords just before she had surgery to replace part of her left skull.

"It's striking. She does look great," said Dr. Richard Riggs, chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Friends and aides say the congresswoman is making an amazing recovery and predict she will likely be released from the hospital in late June or early July.

"I just got to talk to her on Wednesday on the phone for the first time," said friend and colleague Rep. Wendy Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.  "We really had a wonderful conversation."

"She spoke to me in full sentences, initiated those sentences instead of just responding, which is what she'd really only been able to do recently," Schultz continued.  "And she's making remarkable progress. We're so proud of her."

Giffords still remains limited in her ability to communicate, relying on facial expressions, gestures, pointing and fractured sentences.  Her doctors say only time will tell how many of her faculties she will recover.

"With cancer or a heart issue, doctors can tell you a lot more. With brain injuries, they can't," Giffords spokeswoman  Pia Carusone told the Arizona Republic.
 
Nevertheless, Giffords' colleagues have not ruled out the possibility of her someday returning to Capitol Hill.  Should she choose to run for reelection, she'll have until May 2012 to submit papers.

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