A spokeswoman for University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., where Giffords is being treated, told The Associated Press the congresswoman stood on her feet today with assistance from medical staff. Giffords was able to look out the window of her hospital room, spokeswoman Janet Stark said.
Meanwhile, Giffords' family said the Arizona Democrat is expected to be moved on Friday to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, lives.
In an upbeat e-mail sent to family and friends, Gloria Giffords said her daughter can move her limbs on command and has read get-well cards made for her by elementary school students and browsed photos on her husband's iPod.
"Every day Gabby improves and shows higher levels of comprehension and complex actions," Gloria Giffords wrote in an e-mail obtained by multiple news outlets. "They want to start aggressive rehab immediately and are flying her to Houston facilities Friday."
Doctors at University Medical Center, where the congresswoman is being treated, say her road to recovery will be long and slow.
Dr. Peter Rhee, Giffords' head neurosurgeon at the hospital, told The Washington Post today that her medical team plans to move her to a rehabilitation center "as early as Friday or as long as it takes for us to resolve whatever acute problems that may arise," but would not confirm the location of the center. Rhee told the Post that Giffords' recovery is going "as well as could be" but said the congresswoman is at increased risk for infection and pneumonia.
In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer broadcast Tuesday evening, Giffords' husband said the ordeal has been an emotional roller coaster.
"At times I'm 100 percent confident that she's going to make a 100 percent recovery," Kelly said. "And, you know, at other times I don't know."
Read the full text of the e-mail from Giffords' parents, obtained by CNN, below:
"The surgeons are ecstatic. ... Spence and I are humbled by the outpouring of love and prayers and overwhelmed with gratitude.
"There are thousands of people who have responded with cards, flowers, FOOD (we're feeding all the cops and federal marshals in UMC 3 square meals a day as well as folks in two other patient waiting rooms ... almost like the loaves and fishes). The entire front lawn of the hospital as well as the perimeter of her congressional office in Tucson is illuminated by thousands of candles, get-well placards, hers and the other victims' photos, prayers, stuffed animals, and people.
"You can feel the energy.
"Every day Gabby improves and shows higher levels of comprehension and complex actions. Yesterday when Mark came back from speaking at her aide's memorial service, she reached up and untied his tie and undid the top button to his shirt. (One of the nurses on the wing I was visiting with told me ... "You know where this is goin'.") Last night she took his iPod and scrolled through all the pictures. Early this morning she began to read cards made for her by some 4th graders! Her unbandaged eye tracked the lines, she opened the cards and turned them over, reading the back. Mark's gotten pages of large print of Harry Potter's 1st book for her to hold and read (he's not read any of them so this should interesting).
"Saturday in a 5-hour surgery they removed all the tubes from her mouth, did a tracheotomy (although she is breathing great on her own) and inserted a stomach tube for feeding. Before surgery that morning she gave Mark a 20-minute back and neck rub.
"They also placed a steel plate over her right eye where the optic bridge was crushed. (The stitching is beautiful.) Her eyes appear to be fine ... no optic nerve damage, they believe. She came through with flying colors, and all her neurological functions, temp., blood, etc. normal. They have her sitting up in a chair.
"She had minor surgery this a.m. to remove some bone particles that were working out through her scalp and to tidy up the incision on her forehead where the bullet entered. She did well also.
"They are even now having her move limbs on command. So now comes the "true grit" part ... and won't be a stroll in a park, although Mark predicts she'll be up and walking around in 2 weeks. The physical and occupational therapy will proceed side by side and it'll be stringent.
"There is a team of medical specialists involved ... including military surgeons who specialize in bullet wounds to the head. They want to start aggressive rehab immediately and are flying her to Houston facilities Friday. I'll go with her along with Mark and Dr. Rhee and see where I fit into the rehab process, to get an apartment, returning in a couple days to finish up work here, and then back to Texas with Spencer for as long as it takes.
"As she becomes more alert and her right eye gets unbandaged, she'll begin to communicate more and when the trach is removed, speak. You notice I'm speaking in the present tense ... because that's where all your future prayers are going to come in. ... Please help us realize that Gabby as an expression of God cannot be less than perfect and her healing complete.
"Our love and appreciation.
"-- Gloria and Spencer"