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Husband: Giffords will come back 'stronger than ever'

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:45 PM EST, Wed November 23, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Giffords had one-word reply for what should happen to Jared Loughner
  • She and husband Mark Kelly will spend Thanksgiving in Tucson
  • Kelly talks about how she learned other people had died in shooting
  • Loughner is accused of wounding Giffords and 12 others, and killing six

(CNN) -- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords works hard every day to overcome the devastating effects of a gunshot wound in the brain that would have killed most people.

The grueling physical, occupational and speech therapy is helping the Arizona congresswoman get to a point where she can make a decision about returning to office, said her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

Thursday, the couple will spend an emotional Thanksgiving in Tucson.

There's "a lot to be thankful for," Kelly told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" in an interview broadcast Wednesday.

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"Gabby's alive, first of all, and ... she's been able to recover," Kelly said. "She'd remind people to be thankful for your health, your family and for being alive. "

Giffords is generally in an "upbeat mood," Kelly said, and is not angry about what happened to her. "She'll come back stronger than ever, I'm convinced."

The couple have chronicled their experience in a new book, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope."

Jared Loughner, 23, is accused of wounding Giffords and 12 others, and killing six people, in the shooting at a meet-and-greet event for the congresswoman outside a Tucson shopping center in January.

Early on, Kelly said, Giffords said she would like to see Loughner' "rot" if convicted.

"I think she feels differently now," Kelly said. "She understands he's very sick and needs to be treated."

Last week, Giffords told ABC's Diane Sawyer that she was sad about the six people who died in the shooting.

"I cried. A lot of people died," Giffords said, telling Sawyer she doesn't remember the next 13 days at a hospital in Tucson before she was flown to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

Kelly told Morgan he initially did not tell Giffords about the people who died that day. Eventually, the congresswoman saw newspaper articles about the incident.

Giffords caught him when he skipped over the deaths when reading one article, Kelly said.

"She was reading over my shoulder and pointed out that I'd left that out," Kelly said. "I read the paragraph where it talked about six people being killed."

Giffords appeared "shocked." A few minutes later, she broke down in the middle of her speech therapy class. "It was tough," said Kelly, who retired last month as a Navy captain.

The nature of her brain injury allowed Giffords during therapy to sing an entire song, even when she couldn't speak a sentence, Kelly said.

"So she would sing a song. And the therapists kind of used that to help rebuild connections," Kelly said. "They talk about the plasticity of the brain and that it's able to form new connections."

A therapist would play songs by U2, a favorite band of Giffords.

The former astronaut, 47, recalled the 30 minutes that transpired after a couple of news networks reported that Giffords had died.

"It was a tough situation. My mother screamed; kids started crying," Kelly said. "I just got up, walked into the airplane's bathroom and, you know, just broke down. And it was a difficult period of time. But, in hindsight, looking at it, that was the low point. And it's all been pretty positive since then."

Giffords has made what doctors call a miraculous recovery since the shooting.

Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Dong Kim, recently told CNN that Giffords' thought process is normal -- a remarkable feat for someone with the kind of injuries she suffered. She is currently able to answer questions with a few words or a short phrase.

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