|Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her mother 17 May 2011|
Two photos released Sunday show a smiling Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with much shorter and darker hair and few signs of the injuries she suffered when a bullet pierced her skull five months ago.
|Model of Gifford skull showing how extensive the damage to her head was and is.|
The photos were released on Giffords’s Facebook page and were not altered or edited, according to her staff. They “show Gabby has traveled a remarkable distance since Jan. 8,” the day a gunman killed six , shot Giffords in the head and wounded more than one dozen others during a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, said spokesman CJ Karamargin.
|Model of Gifford's skull showcaseing the replacement of the piece of missing skull|
Set to be released as soon as this month from her rehabilitation center, the congresswoman hoped to dampen paparazzi interest in her condition and appearance, Karamargin said.
In April, rumors surfaced that a $200,000 bounty was out for photos of Giffords in recovery.
“This was Mark and Gabby’s decision,” Karamargin said. “There is intense interest in the Congresswoman’s appearance and on the threshold of her going to outpatient treatment, we thought this was a good way to satisfy public curiosity.”
Her recovery has been lauded by doctors and her staff. Giffords is expected to be released as early as this month from the Houston medical facility where she has undergone treatment, including a cranioplasty surgery in May.
Giffords was “smiling and laughing,” according to photographer P.K. Weiss, a former photojournalist asked by the lawmaker to take the photos, adding that “she seemed to enjoy the experience.”
But questions still loom over her cognitive abilities, speech and political future.
The shooting occurred days after Giffords was sworn into her third term in Congress.
“We know this is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint but her release into outpatient care will be another sign of progress,” Karamargin said.
Gifford friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that the two lawmakers spokes last week and had a “wonderful conversation,” with Giffords speaking in full sentences.
Last week, her staff sang “Happy Birthday” to the congresswoman on a conference call. She responded, “That’s great. Thank you,” according to Karamargin.
The photos were taken one day after she traveled to Florida to see her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, launch into space on the shuttle Endeavour.
In video captured by a news helicopter, Giffords was seen standing from a wheelchair and walking slowly up stairs into an airplane. But the images were too grainy to get a clear sense of her appearance.
Immediately after she was shot, a portion of Giffords’ skull was removed to ease pressure on her brain from swelling. In May, a plastic replacement for that portion of her skull was put back into place.