Mark Kelly to Lead Talk in Cedar Rapids
By Cindy Hadish, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — No road map exists to guide families after traumatic events, said retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, whose wife, former U.S. representative Gabby Giffords, survived an assassination attempt.
That extends to troops injured in combat and tragedies such as last month’s movie theater shooting rampage in Colorado.
“I certainly feel for the victims and the families of the victims and the road they have ahead of them,” said Kelly, 48, who will speak at a Sept. 10 event in Cedar Rapids.
Giffords, 42, continues to recover from the gunshot wound to the head that critically injured the Arizona congresswoman on Jan. 8, 2011. Six people died and 13 were injured in the shooting at an Arizona supermarket parking lot where Giffords was meeting with constituents.
Doctors told Kelly that 90 percent of people with the injury his wife suffered would have died.
“When something like this happens, you don’t know what the outcome will be,” he said. “I’m hopeful one day Gabby will be back to work.”
Kelly visited his wife’s hospital bedside daily — with a cup of Starbucks coffee — to maintain a normal routine and offer positive reinforcement.
“I didn’t make a conscious decision about that,” Kelly said of the upbeat attitude he kept around his wife while she recovered at TIRR Memorial Hermann, a Houston rehabilitation center. “When faced with a challenging event, you have to be positive about that. That’s just how I am.”
The couple will forge a future together after living apart for most of their married life — Kelly with NASA duties in Houston and Giffords in Washington, D.C., and Arizona. They moved into a home in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this month.
“She’s doing great,” Kelly said. “She’s very happy about it.”
Giffords can walk with a brace on her paralyzed right leg and undergoes occupational therapy to help regain use of her right arm. The once eloquent speaker continues to improve her language skills, Kelly said.
“That is the biggest frustration for her,” he said, when Giffords struggles to find the right words.
Commander of the space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission to the international space station, Kelly retired last year from NASA and the U.S. Navy. Giffords resigned her congressional seat in January to focus on her recovery.
Kelly will relay some of what he learned during his wife’s recovery, his experiences flying Desert Storm missions over Iraq and more at the free event at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, sponsored St. Luke’s Hospital.
Joining him will be St. Luke’s speech pathologist Angie Glynn, 30, who was a member of Giffords’ rehabilitation team.
Glynn worked at St. Luke’s before she and her husband moved to Houston, where Glynn got a job at TIRR Memorial. She was chosen to serve as Giffords’ primary speech therapist.
“They thought I was a good fit, personality-wise,” said Glynn, who helped Giffords learn to talk again over the course of several months. The Glynns have since returned to Cedar Rapids.
Glynn was featured in videos Kelly shot of his wife’s rehabilitation, which were shown on an ABC-TV special. She also was mentioned in the couple’s book, “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.”
Glynn said she was impressed by both Kelly’s dedication and Giffords’ attitude.
“In the five months of working with her, I probably learned more from her than she learned from me,” Glynn said. “They’re both lucky to have each other.”
What: Mark Kelly: Facing Challenge with Courage and Hope
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 10; doors open at 6 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served.
Where: Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Rd. NE
Tickets: *All seats have been filled for this free event
Book signing: A book signing follows the event. Bring your book from home or copies will be available for purchase.
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