Former NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly talked about combat missions as a Navy pilot and space flight, but the audience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln came to hear about his wife’s remarkable recovery from a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Kelly told about the dangers of flying 40 combat missions in Desert Storm. He talked about the dangers inherent in space shuttle flight.
“But, I didn’t ever contemplate that she would be the one who would come very close to losing her life serving her country,” Kelly stated.
She, of course, is Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, shot in the head during a meeting with constituents in Tucson January 8th of last year. The shooting rampage killed six and wounded 13, including Giffords.
The day of the shooting, Kelly was at his home in Houston. He received a call from Giffords’ chief of staff. Kelly arranged for a plane to take him and family members to Tucson. On the way, he watched television news reports that Giffords had died, only to be relieved later that the reports proved false.
“But, it was certainly the worst 30 minutes of my life,” Kelly told the audience.
Kelly said he and the family understood the odds, not just of recovery, but of survival. Giffords beat the odds, not only surviving the head wound, but recovering faster than any of the many specialists attending her expected. She can walk without aid. Regaining her speech has been the hardest part of recovery, according to Kelly.
Kelly said he has been amazed at the power of the human spirit embodied in his wife’s grim determination to recover.
“She reminds me every single day to deny the acceptance of failure.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60]
AUDIO: Mark Kelly’s speech at UNL [41:00]
AUDIO: Mark Kelly answers questions at UNL [16:55]