US enthralled by single-word answers from politician who refused to die

Gabrielle Giffords gives her first television interview since being shot in the head

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords turns to her husband and calls him brave, and it's hard to disagree. Then her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, turns back to her. "That's what I think of you too," he says. "Brave and tough."

It is his words that most express what the TV audience is thinking – but it is hers that capture the extraordinary road she has taken since she was shot outside a supermarket in her Tucson, Arizona, constituency ten months ago. If tales of human endurance and triumph over adversity is what the American television networks love best, ABC hit gold with its interview with the couple, broadcast on Monday night.

Ms Giffords is still mostly unable to speak in full sentences. But even though she is still far from a full recovery, the improvement in her health since that day has left doctors amazed.

"Better, better," Ms Giffords, seated beside her husband in a couch in Houston, Texas, where she remains in intensive therapy, tells ABC's chief news anchor, Diane Sawyer. And again, "better". This is her response after she is asked if she plans to run for Congress again. Mr Kelly expands on the answer: she has to be better before making that commitment. Supporters who have been aching for more details of the Congresswoman's condition – this is her first television interview since the January shooting that left 12 others wounded and six dead – have reason to be thrilled and sobered alike. A bullet travelled the whole length of the left side of Ms Giffords brain; some call it a medical miracle that she is alive, let alone grinning, engaging in a form of conversation and walking as well.

But there the miracles stop. Most of Ms Giffords' answers to Sawyer came in the form of single words, sometimes repeated for emphasis. Asked if she was angry when she first learned in her hospital bed what had happened the day of the attack, she replies, "No, no, no. Life, life."

Early in the interview she is asked simply how she is feeling. "Pretty good... Difficult... Strong, strong, strong," she says.

It means the uncertainty about her political future will linger for some time longer. Probably there is no politician in the US better loved than Ms Giffords, 41, and there has been speculation that instead of running for the House of Representatives again, she could seek a US Senate seat. "Yes, absolutely. She would like to run," Commander Kelly said in a separate interview yesterday. "She hasn't made the decision yet. She has some time."

The suspect in the shooting, Jared Loughner, is in custody in Missouri and undergoing medical treatment. He has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the attack. Both the Congresswoman and her husband expressed concern that Mr Loughner, 23, may not have received adequate treatment before his rampage. "If he had received some treatment, this probably never would have happened," Commander Kelly said.

The ABC interview was accompanied by segments of a video history of Ms Giffords' recovery taken almost since its beginning by her husband. The tapes show how in the early days she struggled to respond to simple linguistic prompts and commands. At one moment she sobs with a therapist in her Houston rehabilitation hospital. "Can I tell you something? It is going to get better," her therapist says. "You've come a long way in five weeks."

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments