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US lawmaker leaves Tucson hospital

US lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords was given an emotional sendoff on Friday as she was moved close to her family in Texas, where medics called her recovery "outstanding" two weeks after a gun rampage.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2011 08:43 IST

US lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords was given an emotional sendoff on Friday as she was moved close to her family in Texas, where medics called her recovery "outstanding" two weeks after a gun rampage.

The Arizona congresswoman had tears in her eyes when she heard well-wishers applaud the ambulance taking her from hospital in Tucson, where she was shot in the head at point-blank range two weeks ago in an attack that killed six.

"The transfer of Gabby... went flawlessly," said trauma expert Randall Friese at the Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, where Giffords was due to start rehabilitation immediately.

Her husband Mark Kelly and doctors from Tucson's University Medical Center accompanied the 40-year-old on the three hour trip to Houston, to be closer to his work as a NASA astronaut and their two daughters.

Supporters carrying goodwill signs and Stars and Stripes flags lined the sidewalks as the motorcade-style convoy passed, lights flashing ahead of the blue and white ambulance carrying Giffords.

"When we were traveling through the streets of Tucson, there were several times we could hear applause in the ambulance with Gabby, and she responded very well to that, smiling and even tearing a little bit," said Friese.

"It was very emotional."

She was carried on a stretcher into a jet at a nearby US Air Force base, while in Houston the plane was met by a helicopter to take her to a city hospital where she will initially undergo testing.

Briefing reporters shortly after her arrival in Houston, neurosurgeon Dong Kim reported that the lawmaker's recovery prospects were "excellent," in the top five percent for someone with her kind of injury.

"Over the next few months, she's going to do remarkably well," he said, adding that Giffords -- who this week stood up with help for the first time, and browsed photos on an iPad -- appeared to be trying to form words.

"We're all very happy with our assessment of Gabby right now... her rehab potential is outstanding," said John Holcomb, who will be leading her treatment in Houston.

On Thursday, doctors said Giffords was making "fantastic" progress after the horrific January 8 attack, including standing with help and scrolling through photographs on an iPad.

The Tucson shooting, at a public meeting being held by Giffords, triggered a spasm of soul-searching about whether America's fiercely divided political culture had played any role in the attack.

A local man, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, was arrested at the scene, and was this week indicted by a grand jury for the attempted murder of Giffords and two of her aides.

More charges are expected to be brought against him. A federal judge and a nine-year-old girl were among those killed in the shooting.