By The Associated Press
Three Democratic colleagues were in the room Wednesday when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes for the first time on her own since being shot in the head at a political event Saturday.
The breakthrough — publicly announced Wednesday night during President Obama’s speech at a memorial service for the six people who died in Tucson, Ariz. — came as New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz were sitting at Giffords’ bedside. All three are close friends of the Arizona congresswoman.
The moment “felt like we were watching a miracle,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters Wednesday night on their way back to Washington with Obama aboard Air Force One. “Other than the birth of my kids, this was the most incredible feeling to see … one of your closest friends just struggle to come back to you.”
Giffords has since begun yawning and spontaneously waking on her own, her attending physician Dr. Peter Rhee told reporters Thursday morning. She has begun physical therapy, with medical team members helping her to sit up and dangle her legs from the side of the bed.
Rhee credited Wednesday’s “significant” breakthrough — the first time Giffords had opened her eyes in response to her surroundings. (On Sunday, Giffords’ eyes briefly flickered in response to stimulation, doctors said.)
The three lawmakers had been telling Giffords about how they’d take her out after she recovered, maybe “for beer and pizza,” when Giffords’ right eye began to flutter. (Her left eye, damaged in the attack, is bandaged.) Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, leaped to his feet and began encouraging his wife to open her eyes.
[Doctors: Giffords '101% likely' to survive]
“It was the most amazing thing,” Wasserman Schultz told “Good Morning America.”
“All of a sudden, at that point, she just started to open her eyes just a slit. And nobody could believe it,” the Florida Democrat said. “I mean, we were just — we were stunned.”