The Associated Press purchased an advance copy of the joint memoir of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband retired Navy Captain Mark Kelly, which will be released on November 15. The portions of the book the AP shared are stunning.
The Kellys were very open and honest after the aftermath of the January 8 shooting that killed six people and nearly killed Rep. Giffords. They have detailed the previously unknown extent of the damage done by the bullet that passed through the left side of Gabby’s brain, leaving her with only 50% of her eyesight, temporarily paralyzed and unable to speak. And scared, terribly, horribly scared that she would never again be able to do the simplest things. It’s a gripping, heart-rending story of the human spirit and the power of love and strong friendships.
In time, perhaps, we will all be able to laugh over her attempts to speak to former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara. The only word Gabby could get out was “chicken.” Later, when a therapist showed her a picture of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she indicated that she recognized him by saying “Messin’ around. Babies.”
It was March 12 before the Kellys could talk about the day she was shot, when Gabby could tell Mark that she knew what was happening that afternoon and that she thought “Shot. Shocked. Scary.” Later that same day, Gabby figured out there was something Mark wasn’t telling her and he had to explain that six people had died that day. Gabby cried. She was unable to continue her therapy because she was so overcome with emotion. It was another six months before she learned who had been killed.
Kelly describes in the book his own horror, when the early reports said she was dead, then the elation upon hearing that she was alive and finally the shock of seeing her in the hospital.
In the book, the couple describe their meeting, their courtship, the travails of carrying on a three-city marriage with Gabby going back and forth between her district in Tucson and Washington and Kelly based in Houston at NASA. They also talk about how they were trying to have a baby and after several rounds of fertility treatments, were hoping to get pregnant in early 2011. Instead, they were going through the process of rebuilding Gabby’s life.
The final chapter was written by Rep. Giffords. It is a single page of short sentences and phrases called “Gabby’s voice.” “I will get stronger. I will return.” She already has, once. Gabby flew to Washington on August 1 to cast her vote in the House for the debt ceiling deal.
She remains in Houston at the TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation center. As she continues to recover, friends in the House are making plans for her re-election campaign next year. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is spearheading the fundraising for Gabby’s campaign. DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also a close friend, is making sure everyone in Arizona understands that if it is remotely possible, Gabby will run again. They both talk freely about the remarkable progress Gabby has made in her recovery, every day showing improvement. Should she feel she can run again, in all probably she will be re-elected. The people of her district love her. They just wish they had as good a rehab center as Houston for her to recover in.
So, based on the review from the AP, get in line at the bookstore, get on Amazon and pre-order, get ready to download to your Nook or Kindle. This book will be worth reading, as much for Gabby’s story as to help us all understand some of what our soldiers have been going through with their traumatic brain injuries in the past ten years. The Kellys could have chosen to keep their privacy intact. Instead they are giving us a rare insight into the processes people go through when they lose part of their brain. For that, a whole lot of people should be grateful to them.