Girlfriend Power

On The PBS Newshour last Thursday, the day after President Obama’s visit to Tucson, the top of the news was about his visit with Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other wounded victims in the hospital, and his remarkable speech that followed. Until that day, the specifics of Giffords’ physical abilities, responsiveness, or improvement were being carefully guarded by her surgeons, who wanted to wait until she was out of critical condition before making any statements to the public. This was based on the desire not to mislead or provoke the media with any information that was not yet absolute in its determination regarding her status or medical prognosis. Then, during his speech, Obama told us that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time that very afternoon.

What prompted her to open her eyes that afternoon? In part: girlfriend power.

The Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a dear friend of Giffords who, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, was at Giffords’ bedside when the eye-opening incident occurred.  This is part of the transcript from that interview:

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you described this as feeling like a—quote—“miracle.” Tell us what happened.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-Fla.): Well, I was—we all were so full of joy to be able to be by the bedside of our good friend Gabby, and never expected anything like what happened.

We were just talking to her like girlfriends talk to each other, and urging her on, and encouraging her recovery. And, at one point, Senator Gillibrand, Kirsten, was holding her hand, and rubbing her hand, and Gabby actually was rubbing back with her thumb.

And then Kirsten was talking about, “You know, Gabby, come on. You have got to get better quick, because we’re going to go back out for pizza like we did a couple weeks ago.”

Then I said—we have vacationed with them for the last couple summers. So, I said to her, “Gabby, you have got to get better as quick as you can, because we’re expecting you back in New Hampshire this summer.”

And then, right when I said that, she—her eyes started to open just a little bit with slits, but, definitely, you could see she was struggling to get them open. And Mark, her husband, said, “Oh, Gabby, you know, honey, if you can—if you can see me, give me the thumbs-up sign.”

And she didn’t—she didn’t respond with the thumbs-up sign. She—her eyes closed again. They opened. She kept trying a few more times, got them open a little bit more, a little bit more. Mark kept encouraging her on. We were talking, tears streaming down our face.

And Mark finally said, “Honey, if you can see me”—her eyes were open a little bit more—“then give me the thumbs-up.”

And, all of sudden, her arm flew up. She touched his arms. He said, “Honey, touch my ring if you can hear me.” She did.

We were just overcome with emotion. It was absolutely—the doctor—I’m sorry—the doctor got very animated, said this is incredible progress. He suddenly whips out his BlackBerry. He’s furiously typing on it. It was just an incredible moment. It really was.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, you said that the—yes, this took the doctors by surprise as well, right? I think you said last night that he—he referred…


JEFFREY BROWN: … to it as the power of friendship.


When we left the hospital room, when they kind of ushered us out and said, OK, enough excitement for—for one—for one period, we went out and talked to Dr. Lemole, the one who’s been so wonderful on TV explaining what’s going on.

And he said, “Look, I usually discount emotion and the impact of emotion or friendship, but,” he said, “we clearly witnessed the power of friendship here.”

And so we were very happy that our girlfriend power could make a little bit of a difference.

It warmed my heart to hear that story. Love can be so powerful.  It made sense to me that their voices, love, and collective and determined desire to connect with her, helped Giffords’ motivation and ability to open her eyes, and to respond.

I thought about my own dear girlfriends and about my Love, Henri.  How much I love them and how much love they’ve also given me. During difficult times, they’ve all been there, supporting me, cheering me on, and reminding me that everything will be okay. Staying patient through serious bouts of adversity was largely possible because of that love and support. And of course, they were right. I came through to the other side. As they knew I would.

All I can say is that I thank the Universe for the power of Girlfriends and the power of Love.


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