As Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues to recover from the Jan. 8 assassination attempt in Houston, her staff member Ron Barber returned to work this week in Tucson.
Barber, Giffords’ district director, was back at his office on July 5, with plans to work part-time while going through rehabilitation for wounds he suffered in the shooting.
Barber was shot in the cheek and the thigh, which has left him home recovering for nearly six months.
Barber and Giffords were injured along with 11 others in the shooting where six people were killed, including federal judge John Roll, Giffords’ staff member Gabriel “Gabe” Zimmerman and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. A new federal courthouse under construction in Yuma was dedicated to Roll on June 30.
Pam Simon, another member of Giffords’ staff, was shot in the chest and wrist. She was able to return to work in February.
In Barber’s absence, Giffords’ former campaign manager Rodd McLeod served as the interim district office coordinator.
“I had been Gabby’s campaign manager in 2006 and 2010. I knew everybody in the office, and felt it would be less disruptive to bring in someone already in Gabby’s extended family rather than bringing in a complete stranger during such an emotional time for the staff,” said McLeod.
In a statement, Barber said, “I have been working and planning for this day since I was injured in January. I have missed my colleagues in the congresswoman’s office and am ready to rejoin them as we continue offering services to the people of Congressional District 8. I very much look forward to the day Congresswoman Giffords herself will be able to return to work.”
While Giffords has made what doctors, family and friends call “miraculous” progress, she still has a long road to recovery after shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner shot her in the left side of the brain.
Karamargin said Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, has told her she was shot, and Loughner is behind bars. She has also been told that six people died, but their identities have not been revealed.
Karamargin said it has been agreed that information involving the shooting will be told to Giffords as she continues to recover and is ready to hear it.
Karamargin along with doctors, family and staff are confident Giffords will continue to defy the odds.
After Giffords’ June 17 visit to Tucson – her first during her recovery – Karamargin was encouraged when the congresswoman walked up 18 steps without assistance, and noticed the plants at the new district offices needed water.
“We are absolutely optimistic about what the future holds,” Karamargin said. “If anybody can do it, Gabby can do it. I don’t think there’s anyone here, or her doctors even, that have any doubt that she’s on the road to recovery. Where will she be? No one can say for certain. But, we can say for certain that she’s defied the odds. Look at the ground she’s covered. in six months she is climbing stairs and talking about plants that need water.’
Giffords continues to attend outpatient rehabilitation in Houston, where is working on her speech. She is improving, but Karamargin said she is using a lot of facial expressions to get her point across.
Even though she is being treated in Houston, Karamargin said there is no doubt that Giffords is working to recover to get back to work, and to her home to Tucson.
Giffords, a third-generation Tucsonan, has stayed true to her roots even in Houston.
Karamargin said her room at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital was like an “oasis of Arizona.”
Many of Giffords’ belongings from the Houston rehabilitation center have been shipped to her office in Tucson. During The Explorer’s visit on June 23, Karamargin unpacked the helmet his boss wore prior to the final brain surgery that replaced a portion of her skull. He showed how the protective headgear, which Giffords hated to wear, was decorated with the Arizona flag.
The boxes also contained pictures of some of Giffords’ favorite Tucson locations, including a framed photograph of the historic Rialto Theatre. The images adorned her hospital room during her rehab in Houston.
While Giffords is recovering, shooting suspect Loughner is being held at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.
In May, Loughner was ruled incompetent for trial.
Last week federal judge Larry Burns ruled prison officials could forcibly medicate Loughner.