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Monday
Nov142011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Speaks Out in First Interview Since Shooting

ABC/Ida Mae Astute

(NEW YORK) -- For years, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fought for her causes in Congress, fought her way through 10-mile hikes and runs with her friends in Tucson, Ariz., and with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, fought -- through in vitro fertilization and fertility drugs -- to have a child.

But on Jan. 8, all of that changed.  Following the shooting of 19 people at a meet-and-greet in Tucson, Giffords fought to survive a near-deadly gunshot to the brain, and after that, she had to fight once again for the life she wanted back.

"Difficult," Giffords says in her first interview since the shooting, with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

Giffords still struggles for the right words to form sentences, a condition called aphasia that is common in brain injury patients.  She has undergone months of intensive speech and physical therapy to try and rebuild the connections in her brain that were severed when a bullet entered just over her left eye, traveling through the left side of her brain.

"It's clear that any lower, it would've killed her, any further midline, it would've killed her," Kelly tells Sawyer.  "If it crossed hemispheres, it would've killed her.  Any further outboard, she'd never be able to speak again.  Any higher, she'd never be able to walk."

Giffords' remarkable journey to recovery and the love story that brought her and Kelly together is the subject of a new book they worked on together, called Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.

In the beginning of the book, Kelly writes that he and his wife hoped that 2011 would be "the best year of our lives." Kelly would command the last flight of the orbiter Endeavor, Giffords would begin her third term in Congress, and the two would hopefully conceive a child together.

Instead, 2011 was punctuated first with terror and grief: 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner apparently targetted Giffords at a public event, fatally shooting six people and wounding 13 others, including Rep. Giffords. Since then, her daily routine has been hard work, occasional setbacks and personal triumphs.  Together, Giffords and Kelly learned what survival really meant.

"She was sitting in her wheelchair, tears running down her face. She was hyperventilating, absolutely panicked," Kelly told Sawyer.  "I saw how scared she was.  I got scared, too.  I just held her, and said, you know, 'We'll get through this.'"

It is that determination, along with Giffords' own personal strength, that shine through in exclusive home videos taken by Kelly and their family that will be seen for the first time as part of the Diane Sawyer special.

Kelly and Giffords' family decided to document every milestone of her recovery, realizing some day Giffords would want to know what had happened to her.

Gabby and Mark: Courage and Hope, a Diane Sawyer Exclusive, airs Monday, Nov. 14 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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