BALTIMORE (WJZ) —  Five months after she nearly lost her life, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has released the first photos of herself since the shooting.

Mary Bubala explains she’s doing so well, doctors say Giffords could leave her rehab center by the end of the month.

It’s the smile we all recognize from old photos of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but the hair is dark and short and there is a noticeable dent in the side of her skull.  Still, the two photographs are remarkable, considering she was shot in the head less than six months ago.

“She looks healthy and in that sense she’s been able to maintain her weight and she’s eating and she’s drinking and all of that is a good thing,” said Dr. Michael de Georgia, University Hospital’s Case Medical Center.

A Giffords spokesperson told the Arizona Republic last week that the congresswoman’s speech hasn’t fully returned and “she’s still using facial expressions as a way to express.”

Neurologists we spoke to say that’s not surprising.

“As we know, her injury was on the left side of the brain and for most of us, that’s where language is centered,” de Georgia said.

Friends in Congress say Giffords has also been able to initiate conversation. 

The pictures were taken May 17, right around the time she traveled to Florida for her husband Mark Kelly’s shuttle launch, which was canceled.  Her staff says the photographs have not been altered or touched up in any way.  They were posted on her Facebook page to quiet rumors about her recovery as she gets ready to leave rehab.

Giffords and her husband released the photos hoping it will stop the paparazzi from trying to get pictures of her when she begins her outpatient therapy next month.

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