NY Senator Sees Gabrielle Giffords Open Her Eye

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is heartened by Congresswoman's progress

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Gabrielle Giffords (left) and Kirsten Gillibrand (right)

    She opened her eye.

    Rep. Gabrielle Giffords thrilled her husband, parents and friends, including New York's junior senator, by opening her bandaged right eye for the first time just four days after being shot in the head.

    "We had been telling her that she was inspiring the country with her courage and that we couldn't wait to take her out to pizza and a weekend away," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand D-N.Y.

    "Then after she heard our voices and the encouragement of Mark (her husband) and her parents, she struggled briefly and opened her eyes for the very first time," Gillibrand said.  "It was a miracle to witness"

    Gillibrand and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., two of Giffords' closest friends on Capitol Hill, had flown with the President on Air Force One to Tucson Wednesday for the memorial service and a chance to see their critically wounded pal.

    After the President and First Lady visited Giffords at Tucson's University Medical Center, Gillibrand, Wasserman Schultz and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi walked into her room.

    After sharing stories of happier times, liked eating together at their favorite DC restaurant, Gillibrand said she was holding Giffords' left hand when she started to feel it move. Giffords squeezed the senator's hand, then rubbed her hand with her thumb.
     
    Then Giffords' right eye started to flicker. (Her left eye, damaged in the shooting, is bandaged.) For about 30 seconds, Giffords struggled, before finally opening her eye wide and straining to focus on her friends, husband, parents and doctor.
     
    "We knew she could hear and understand what we were saying," Gillibrand said.
     
    It was the first time Giffords had opened her eye since the shooting on Saturday where 19 people were shot and six died.

    Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly told her to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him. Instead, she slowly raised her left arm.
     
    "The doctor said this is amazing what she's doing right now and beyond our greatest hopes," Gillibrand said.
     
    "It felt like we were watching a miracle," Wasserman Schultz said. "The strength that you could see flowing out of her, it was like she was trying to will her eyes open."
     
    Her doctors remain optimstic.

    "Will she be functional, viable normal?" asked trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee.  "I can't say for sure, but I'm very hopeful she will be."

    Kelly told the president and first lady about the development as they drove from the hospital to the University of Arizona's McKale Center, where Obama spoke at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's massacre. Kelly gave the president permission to tell the crowd about his wife's progress,
     
    "Gabby opened her eyes," Obama told the cheering crowd. "So I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey."