As Giffords Recovers, Her Team Perseveres
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Ted Robbins reports that the trip to Cape Canaveral is a milestone for her recovery and for her staff.
TED ROBBINS: Her trip this week to watch Endeavour's launch is personal, but communications director C.J. Karamargin says, in a way, it's also Giffords' first professional outing since she was shot.
KARAMARGIN: As the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, she has become among NASA's most ardent champions in Congress.
ROBBINS: Of course, not being present, she cannot vote or introduce legislation. Although a couple of weeks ago, Texas Congressman Ted Poe, a Republican colleague of the Democrat Giffords, visited ranchers in rural Arizona, then introduced a bill on Giffords' behalf to improve emergency communications along the border. So business goes on in the Washington and the Tucson offices.
(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)
JONI JONES: Hi, Bernadette. It's Joni. I just want to let you know that your Native American studies certificates are ready.
ROBBINS: Office manager Joni Jones is constantly on the phone, this time arranging to deliver a stack of certificates congratulating Native American students graduating this spring. Instead of Giffords' signature, Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, has signed them.
ROSS ZIMMERMAN: Hey.
JONES: Hi, Ross.
ZIMMERMAN: Hi, Joni.
JONES: How are you?
ROBBINS: Ross Zimmerman walks into the office carrying lunch for Joni Jones. Zimmerman's son, Gabe, who was Giffords' outreach director, was killed on January 8th.
ZIMMERMAN: I stop here pretty much every day. I make a point of it. They like it. I like it. Right?
ROBBINS: But Michael McNulty says her personality is intact.
MICHAEL MCNULTY: The way her face lights up when she sees you takes you straight back to when it was the Gabby Giffords we all know.
ROBBINS: McNulty is Giffords' campaign chairman. He visited her a few days ago at TIRR Memorial Hospital in Houston where she's in rehab.
MCNULTY: Her powers of perception seem almost unimpaired. As you're talking along, if you stop and say, you know, are you following me? She gets very frustrated and say yeah, yeah, I understand. Keep going.
ROBBINS: That doesn't mean Giffords is ready to contemplate running for office again. The persistent rumors of a Senate campaign or even another congressional campaign are just that, rumors. Her staff, her family, her friends are practicing patience and living with uncertainty.
MCNULTY: Nothing could be more accurate. We have no idea how this is going to come out.
ROBBINS: Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
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