Tucson: Fresh from a sunny outing that brought a smile, Gabrielle Giffords is moving to a Houston rehab centre where her husband expects the "fighter" to continue on the path to a full recovery.
University Medical Centre staffers took the wounded congresswoman to a deck at the hospital on Thursday, where she breathed in the fresh air and felt the sun, trauma surgeon Peter Rhee said.
"I saw the biggest smile she could gather," Rhee said. "We are very happy to have her enjoying the sunshine of Arizona."
Giffords has been making progress nearly everyday in her recovery from a bullet wound to the brain.
Doctors ticked off other markers of her continuing improvement: She scrolled through an iPad, picked out different coloured objects and moved her lips. They are unsure whether she is mouthing words, nor do they know how much she is able to see.
Her husband, Houston-based astronaut Mark Kelly, believes she has tried to speak and can recognise those around her.
"I can just look in her eyes and tell," Kelly said at a final briefing on Thursday at the Tucson hospital. "She is very aware of the situation."
He said he`s hoping she`ll make a full recovery, calling her "a fighter like nobody else that I know”.
The doctors who will help her offered a more sober outlook.
"Not everyone always gets 100 percent restoration, but we help them to get to a new normal," said Carl Josehart, chief executive of the rehab hospital that will be the Arizona congresswoman`s home for the next month or two.
Giffords is expected to be moved on Friday morning, travelling by ambulance to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base with an escort from a group of motorcycle riders from a Veterans of Foreign Wars post who know her.