Giffords dines with medical staff in Tucson

PHOENIX Tue Sep 6, 2011 3:08pm EDT

U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords smiles at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before her cranioplasty, in this May 17, 2011 photo released on her Facebook page June 12, 2011. REUTERS/P.K. Weis/SouthwestPhotoBank.com

U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords smiles at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before her cranioplasty, in this May 17, 2011 photo released on her Facebook page June 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/P.K. Weis/SouthwestPhotoBank.com

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - During a Labor Day weekend visit to Tucson, wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had an emotional dinner with the medical staff who saved her life after she was shot at a political rally in January, her office said on Tuesday.

During the three-day visit to Arizona over the holiday weekend, Giffords dined at a private home with a "handful" of the doctors and nurses from Tucson's University Medical Center who treated her after she was shot through the head on January 8, her spokesman Mark Kimble said.

"It was the first time they had seen each other since ... January. It was obviously very emotional for all of them," he said.

Kimble said that Giffords stayed at the home of her parents, Gloria and Spencer, while in Tucson. She returned on Monday to Houston, where she has been receiving intensive physical therapy since late January.

The visit to Tucson was only her second since the shooting. Kimble said Giffords had made "significant improvements" since her last visit over the Father's Day weekend in June, during which she met with her office staff.

"She is working very hard in her therapy ... it was very apparent to those of us who saw her that it is making a difference," Kimble said.

"She is walking unaided ... It's very encouraging, it's very inspiring to all of us," he added.

Six people were killed and 13 injured, among them Giffords, when a gunman opened fire at the "Congress on Your Corner" outside a Tucson area grocery store.

Accused shooter Jared Loughner is being treated at a hospital for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, after being declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in May.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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