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Shot Congresswoman returns home

US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has returned home to her astronaut husband, leaving behind a Houston hospital where she began to rebuild her life after a gunman shot her in the head five months ago.

Ms Giffords' release marks a new phase in her recovery. She struggles to speak and walk, and will need daily, intensive therapy.

Whether she will ever recover enough to resume her congressional duties is still unknown.

But doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann, her husband Mark Kelly and experts who have been observing Ms Giffords' recovery emphasise that going home is a key milestone and could help stimulate her progress.

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Mr Kelly said in a statement released by the hospital. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her."

Ms Giffords will still go to the hospital each day where she will participate in speech, music, physical and occupational therapy with the same team that has treated her since she arrived in Houston in late January.

Now, however, at the end of each day "she will be with her family", Mr Kelly said.

The congresswoman will move to Mr Kelly's home in League City, a suburb near the Johnson Space Centre, where she will have 24-hour help from a home care assistant.

The 41-year-old was shot in the left side of the brain, the part that controls speech and communication, on January 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the politician and members of her staff.

Jordan Grafman, director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Laboratory at the Kessler Foundation Research Centre in New Jersey said being around family often motivates patients. He warned, however, that the congresswoman is far from healed and will have many months, years and even a lifetime of recovery ahead of her.

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