Aide: Giffords's return to work uncertain

The chief of staff for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) said it's uncertain whether the congresswoman will be able to return to Congress.

"The only firm timetable is the legal timetable, and that is May of 2012, when petitions are due for re-election," Pia Carusone, Giffords's chief of staff said to the Arizona Republic. "That's a firm timetable. Short of that, we'd love to know today what her life will be, what her quality of life will be, which will determine whether she'll be able to run for office and all sorts of other things involving her life."

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Giffords has been recovering from a gunshot to the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., in early January. Doctors have hailed Giffords's survival and recovery as almost miraculous. Nevertheless, Carusone said, it's unclear how completely Giffords will recover and if she will return to Congress.

"She's living. She's alive. But if she were to plateau today, and this was as far as she gets, it would not be nearly the quality of life she had before," Carusone said. "There's no comparison. All that we can hope for is that she won't plateau today and that she'll keep going and that when she does plateau, it will be at a place far away from here."

Since the shooting, Giffords has regained use of most of her body and is reportedly able to communicate in a number of ways including talking. Giffords was also able to attend the recent launch of space shuttle Endeavour, which her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, led.

In May Giffords underwent an operation to replace part of her skull that had been removed to prevent swelling after the shooting. Giffords's doctors said the operation "went very well."