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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Go, Gabby, go (at your own pace)”

It has been a little more than three months since the horrific events of Jan. 8, when a shooting at a “”Congress on Your Corner”” gathering left six dead and dozens wounded, including beloved Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

And while the events of that day must still be terribly sharp in the minds of the victims and their loved ones, they seem to be rapidly fading from Tucson’s collective consciousness. Updates on the shooting victims and the trial of the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, pepper local media occasionally, a far cry from the wall-to-wall coverage that dominated front pages for days after the shooting. Tucson seems to be moving on and, hopefully, gradually healing.

But one narrative thread in the ongoing story continues to capture the media and public’s imagination: Giffords’ remarkable recovery.

In a time when the news cycle seems perpetually dreary, reports of Giffords’ progress, which have been overwhelmingly positive almost from the get-go, give everyone who follows them something to cheer about. She has brave, talented doctors, a loving family, a dedicated staff and, as every Southern Arizonan knows, an indomitable spirit. And she’s getting better every day. It’s just the story we all need to get through the bad news pouring in from all other fronts.

But, as a recent story in Newsweek suggested, media coverage of Giffords’ recovery may be misleading the public about her future in the public sphere.

“”I can understand how somebody listening to us might say they expected her to show up and be normal,”” Dr. Dong Kim, one of the neurosurgeons who has worked with Giffords, told Newsweek. But, he cautioned, “”‘leaps and bounds’ means much faster recovery than the average patient from a similar type of thing.””

The doctors interviewed for the Newsweek article all stressed that those following Giffords’ progress from afar must remember the severity of the injuries Giffords sustained, and how profoundly such injuries might continue to affect her throughout her life. Many spoke about a “”new normal”” — the goal doctors set for their brain-damaged patients. Giffords’ new normal might not look anything like her old one, and her supporters need to be prepared to embrace whatever a new normal means.

Rather than focus on the reality of recovery from a severe head injury, much of the media and the political world has turned its attention to Giffords’ future in politics. Although she has no idea, she’s widely considered the Democratic frontrunner for Jon Kyl’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. Speculation about when she’ll be well enough to return to politics has seemed endless, and has come from Giffords’ own staff as well as from the media. Fellow Democratic politicians spoke of Giffords as a “”formidable”” and even “”unbeatable”” Senate candidate in the Newsweek story.

But we, the public and Giffords’ well-wishers, must leave the politicking up to the politicians and strategists. It’s tempting, especially for Arizona Democrats, to be excited for a Giffords Senate run. It’s understandable to hope she’ll someday be able to return to politics.

But if she is either unable or unwilling to make that transition, Giffords still deserves unswerving support. Focusing on her political future detracts from the purely human miracle of her recovery.

It has only been three months. And while Giffords has made wonderful progress, it’s important for the media to reign in its endless speculation and focus on just that: her progress. Not as a congresswoman or a potential senator, not as a pawn in Arizona’s political game, but as a person, a victim of violence and a fierce fighter. Whether Giffords runs for Kyl’s seat or slips quietly out of public life, she deserves the same amount of compassion and love.

For all I care, Giffords can spend the rest of her life underwater basket weaving, if that’s what she and her family decide is right for her. I’d be proud to call her my senator, but I’m equally proud just knowing she’s still out there, fighting bravely, no matter what her future holds.

 

 — Heather Price-Wright is the assistant arts editor for the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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