To many who knew Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, they were thought of as a “power couple.” Two highly successful people with high-profile public service careers: Gabby, the dedicated young Congresswoman, and Mark, the Navy captain and space shuttle commander. Mark and his twin brother Scott, sons of police officers, were raised in an Irish Catholic family in New Jersey. Gabby and her sister were brought up by their artist mother and tire company owner father (who was Jewish) in the southwest.
"This book is deeply personal and beautifully written.... It is also poignant, heartfelt and hopeful."
Gabby and Mark first met on a trip to China; it was strictly professional and all business. Their next meeting was the following year, a follow-up to the first trip. They found they could talk easily to each other, and both were used to living a rather eclectic and interesting life. Their first official date was a visit to Death Row at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, a most unusual venue. Though their personalities and backgrounds were quite different, they had much in common and were quickly drawn to each other. They had a somewhat atypical, mostly long-distance courtship that culminated in their marriage on November 10, 2007.
With disparate career paths, their marriage often followed the same path as their courtship --- long distance --- with hours spent on the phone each evening. It later turned out that their ability to communicate well across great distances became a factor of huge importance during Gabby's recuperation and rehabilitation after the shooting.
The bullet did massive damage to the left side of Gabby's brain, and many delicate and critical surgeries followed. While the specialists did their very best, no one could guarantee that her brain eventually would be restored to its former level of functioning. The brain is still a great mystery, and although significant strides have been made in treating brain trauma, much remains unknown and perhaps unknowable.
With Mark and Gabby's mother, Gloria, as her constant companions and advocates for her recovery, and with an excellent team of specialists, therapists and caregivers in place, improvements in Gabby's condition came both by leaps and bounds, and what appeared to be at a snail's pace. Restoring language skills was very hard work, as was the intense physical therapy of learning to walk again.
For an outgoing, articulate young woman to have her main means of communication --- speech --- locked away and inaccessible, even temporarily, was a huge challenge and constant source of frustration. Though Gabby and Mark had only been married a little over three years when the shooting occurred, Mark knew his wife so very well that he was the perfect cheerleader and spokesperson for her. Gloria, with her common sense and her mother's instinct and deep love, worked tirelessly with Mark. They questioned the doctors and therapists to learn as much as they could about traumatic brain injury, and participated fully in Gabby's therapy, encouraging and challenging her. Many relatives, friends and colleagues also were instrumental in supporting Gabby. During this time, Mark prepared for and commanded the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavor, a monumental undertaking even during the best of times. That he was able to compartmentalize his professional and personal lives to accomplish such a feat is quite remarkable.
But the best efforts of the medical professionals and all the love and support in the world could not alone have done what Gabby herself has done. Tenaciously, painstakingly, and inch by inch and minute by minute, Gabby drew on her internal strength, positive attitude, strong will and courage, and has made what the doctors call a "miraculous" recovery.
Gabby walks unsteadily with a brace on her right leg, her speech is not yet completely restored, and she remains on the long road to recovery. Still, her progress has been absolutely remarkable. It is hoped and expected that she will continue to recover more as time goes by, though to what extent is not known by anyone right now. But it is certain that she will live a full, productive and good life, whatever form that may take.
This book is deeply personal and beautifully written, with the able assistance of Jeffrey Zaslow. It is also poignant, heartfelt and hopeful. Mark's love for Gabby jumps off every page, but the very best part is page 299, which Gabby herself wrote. Indeed, GABBY does have a "happily ever after."