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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Texas AG: Giffords’ Will ‘Maximize’ Potential

January 21, 2011 - 12:50 PM | by: Mike Tobin

As Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords enters the massive Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott knows as well as anyone what she is going to experience.

In 1984 he was out jogging and in a freak accident, a tree fell on him. His back was broken; he was instantly paralyzed and taken to the facility.  The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research designates the program at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital as a Model-System for traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.  Abbott says it dealt not only with his physical injuries but the emotional and mental deficits with which he was confronted after losing the use of his legs. He speaks glowingly of the rehabilitation program. “It will allow her to maximize her potential, post trauma,” says Abbot.

The doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann have thus far been very careful not to speculate on the extent to which Giffords will be able to recover.  “In general, it’s really quite difficult to say with confidence what the final outcome is going to be because each person is different from another,” says Gerard Francisco who will lead the rehab team.

Abbott finds that refreshing.  He believes it is important for patients who suffer life-altering injuries, like neurological damage, to avoid unrealistic expectations and chase alternative treatments that are not backed up by hard science. “I did see people who lost years clinging to hope,” says Abbott.

Abbott never regained the use of his legs but through re-hab and counseling he established a set of goals he could achieve.  Confined to a wheelchair, he went on to be a successful lawyer, judge and ultimately won the statewide election that put him in his current post as Texas Attorney General.  He gives some of the credit to the people with whom he did his re-hab in the hospital where congresswoman Giffords is beginning her recovery.  “They put me on a practical pathway that allowed me to resume professional goals” says Abbott.

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