/ Modified dec 16, 2011 6:07 p.m.

Kelly: Giffords Speaking in Full Sentences

Wounded congresswoman's recovery measured in weekly improvement

121611_Interview_with_Mark_Kelly_617_347 Mark Kelly says U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues to improve, including long walks and more speaking ability. (PHOTO: AZPM)

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is speaking in full sentences now, says her husband, an improvement from a month ago when she uttered several phrases in a national television interview.

Retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly told Arizona Week in an interview at his suburban Houston home Thursday that the Democratic congresswoman from Tucson is still working to combine the sentences she is able to speak.

Asked if she is forming complete sentences, Kelly said, "Oh, yeah, absolutely. The hard part for her right now is stringing them together. But that's coming."

Giffords still doesn't have much use of her right arm, Kelly said, but is doing better walking.

Giffords was shot through the left side of her brain last Jan. 8 as she conducted a "Congress on Your Corner" event on Tucson's northwest side. Six people were killed and a dozen others wounded.

"She works on the ability to use her right arm, but that's not progressing all that well," he said. "It's improving a little bit. ... It's a very small improvement with her right arm. And her ability to walk is improving a little bit as well. She can't walk very fast, but she can walk long distances," and takes walks of 45 minutes to one hour in their residential neighborhood.

Overall, Kelly said, Giffords is getting better.

"I was telling her just this morning that I've noticed continued improvement," he said. "It's a testament to the hard work she's been doing. Week to week, she's just really working hard."

Kelly said while her improvement was evident each day in the time shortly after the shooting last Jan. 8, it now is evident more when measured from one week to the next.

"She spends many hours a week doing physical rehab, occupational, speech therapy, some group therapy ... so she's pretty busy," he said. "Leaves the house at 8, gets back in the afternoon and then continues rehab here."

Giffords is still a ways from deciding if she will run for reelection next year to continue her political career, Kelly said. She will decide before next May when petitions must be filed to get her name on the primary election ballot, but she won't wait until the last days to make her decision.

"Whether she could win the election or not is not a factor in her making this decision," Kelly said. "She's a good campaigner. But the decision hinges on how well she can do the job."

During the interview Thursday morning, Giffords was not at home, having departed for her daily therapy.

Reporter Michael Chihak interviewed Kelly in-depth for Arizona Week. Watch here.

Mark Kelly reviews the events in his life of 2011 by talking on his novel, career, N.A.S.A., recent retirement from the U.S. Navy, and the recovery of his wife, congresswoman Gabriel Giffords. (VIDEO: AZPM)
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