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January 23rd, 2011
12:55 PM ET

Mary Jo Buttafuoco: “I never knew Congresswoman Giffords before this. Now I know her because of this.”

Mary Jo Buttafuoco, who survived a point-blank gunshot to the head, speaks tonight with CNN's Don Lemon about Giffords' survival and remarkable recovery. Watch the live interview tonight - Sunday, January 23 - at 6 p.m. ET.

By CNN Senior Producer Glenn Emery

Everyone is anxiously following the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but perhaps no one is as keenly tuned in as Mary Jo Buttafuoco. She suffered her own traumatic head wound in 1992 when her then-husband’s teenager lover, Amy Fisher, shot her point-blank in the face on the steps of the Buttafuocos’ Long Island home. Today, more than 18 years later, she still bears the scars of that attack. She’s paralyzed on the right side of her face and is deaf in her right ear. She lives with constant pain that she describes as an impacted wisdom tooth. She gets dizzy if she turns around. She won’t answer the door without knowing who it is.

Buttafuoco was not shot in the brain as Giffords was. But her first-hand experience at surviving and recovering from a bullet to the head offers a rare glimpse into what Giffords may be going through now and may likely face in the future.

Based on her own experience, Buttafuoco says Giffords might not yet fully comprehend where she is or exactly what has happened. Buttafuoco says doctors told her she was responsive to them after her own injury, and they told her repeatedly that she had been shot. But she says she has no memory of it. Reality did not sink in until much later. According to Buttafuoco, Giffords could face a similar awakening in the future in which she learns the enormity of the tragedy. Buttafuoco worries that could pose a potential setback in Giffords’ recovery because the truth could be an overwhelming burden.

Buttafuoco also points out that Giffords is likely under heavy sedation. Addiction is always a risk when powerful pain medications are used. Medication creates a comfortable cocoon from the physical and emotional pain, Buttafuoco says. When the drugs are removed, the pain can be overwhelming. Buttafuoco became addicted to pain killers and eventually had to go to the Betty Ford Clinic to recover.

Even after the body has healed, Buttafuoco says there is a whole new adjustment to life. The wounded body will not be the same and may not function as before. Giffords may have to learn how to do many ordinary things all over again.

“It will be a long and arduous process,” Buttafuoco says of Giffords’ recovery.

Buttafuoco told her story in the 2009 book, “Getting it Through My Thick Skull.”

Filed under: Anchors • CNN Newsroom • Don Lemon
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Alex Lotoski

    Giffords' misfortune as well as Mary Jo Buttafuoco's are evidence of victimized individuals just doing what they do in public and private life. Along comes a rabid idiot from out of nowhere and inflicts their injuries upon the unsuspecting party. In Mary Jo's case, she was victim of a timeless problem as old as the Bible. Infidelity and jealousy. However, in the case of Giffords we have something far and few between in this country. The last time we experienced this was the Kennedy incidents. I do believe that the bantering that is and has been taking place from such media as Fox and others is at the very root cause of this travesty. Now that this has begun I envision other incidents of the same nature to befall our Governmental leaders. The stage has been set. First the masked GOP sub party (Tea Party) followed by their hate mongering and subsequently followed by the Fox Media and the Palin caustic cartoon characters and then the horrible deeds committed by the supposedly unknown nobody citizen. It almost seems like we have seen this before. There will probably be many less Congressional volunteers in the future. Many of these Congressman and Senators are not the stuff our boys in Afghanistan are made of. A sad commentary of our time here in the USA.

    January 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  2. claudia kinzer

    M.J you are a strong tenacious woman! Prayers are with congress woman Gifford.

    January 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm |