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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

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SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I was. I was with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I was with Speaker Pelosi, her parents, her husband, Mark, and the doctors.

COOPER: What was the moment like? What -- what -- tell us about it.

GILLIBRAND: It was extraordinary. I mean, we were -- we were lucky that we were even getting to visit her. So, we felt so blessed that we could even see her.

And she was amazing. She was holding my hand at the time, and she was squeezing it and even stroking it. She was -- absolutely could hear everything we were saying. And Debbie and I were telling her how much she was inspiring the nation with her courage, her strength. And we were talking about the things we wanted to do as soon as she was better.

And I was saying, we will have another night out for beer and pizza with your husband. And Debbie started talking about taking her out to their house in New Hampshire. And we were just talking about all the things we wanted to do. And -- and, all of a sudden, she started to struggle to open her eyes. And -- and so Mark saw that and said, you know: "Open your eyes, Gabby. Open your eyes."

And she kept struggling and struggling. And Mark just kept encouraging her. And, within a moment, she literally opened her eyes. And the doctor was unbelievably excited, because this was such great progress. And -- and so it was something that we couldn't imagine that -- that we would have witnessed.

But then she -- she took a few moments to try to focus, and you could see that she was focusing. And then Mark said -- he said: "You know, Gabby, if you can see me, if you can see me, you know, give us a thumbs-up, give us a thumbs-up."

And she didn't only give the thumbs-up. She literally raised her entire hand. And we were just -- we couldn't stop crying. We were so excited and so -- just witnessing something we couldn't imagine we were in the room for.

And it was just one of those moments that -- that life brings you so rarely. And both Debbie and I are just sitting -- we're sitting there in awe of her, about her strength and courage and what she was able to -- to communicate to us. And it was an extraordinary moment in both our lives.

COOPER: And -- and the -- just...

GILLIBRAND: I mean, Debbie and I were just talking about it.

COOPER: Just so you know, our viewers, on the left side of the screen, are watching the president and Mrs. Obama about to board Air Force One.

Senator, how -- how long did -- I mean, did she keep her eyes open? Were her eyes still open when you left?

GILLIBRAND: She only kept them open for a moment, probably about 30 seconds? How long?

Yes.

And how long did she keep them open total? Maybe 30 -- maybe 30 seconds, maybe 60 seconds, about -- it was just moments, but it was -- it was open, and then you could see she was focusing. And then, when asked if she could see, she responded positively.

And so it was -- and the doctor said, you know, after that moment, she's like, she needs to rest. And so we said our good-byes and said we'd be back. And -- and, so, it was a moment, but it was a really important moment for her, and -- and one that we just feel so blessed to be a part of.

I would like to give the phone to Debbie, because she'd like to say a few words as well.

COOPER: Sure.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Hi. Hi, Anderson. How are you? It's Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

COOPER: So, explain -- how was it for you when -- what -- explain what you saw.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, we were -- we were in the room. Kirsten was holding -- we were all alternately holding her hand.

She -- we were taking turns talking to her, and, you know, just saying -- you know, Kirsten talked about, you know, going out for pizza with -- with their husbands. And then I said, because we have vacationed with Mark and Gabby for the last couple of summers. They have come up to our house in New Hampshire.

So, I told her -- I said, come on, you have got to get better as quick as possible, because we expect you up in New Hampshire this summer. And, just as I said that, that's when she suddenly (AUDIO GAP) struggling to open her -- struggling to open her eyes.

And, you know, at first -- at first, it was just a little bit. The doctors couldn't believe it. They -- they said, this is -- you know, this is such a good sign -- and then they -- sorry, we're just coming up to the plane -- this is such a good sign.

Then Mark started encouraging her. "You know, Gabby, you know, give me a thumbs-up if you can see. If can you see me, touch my ring. You know, touch my wedding ring."

So, she started doing that. She started rubbing his arm. Then her arm -- when he asked her again to -- to give him the thumbs-up if she -- we just kept talking to her and talking to her about the fun that we have had with her.

And so then she opened her eyes more. I mean, she went from opening her eyes really just in slits to opening them almost fully. I mean, it wasn't for very long, and then they would close again.

But it was just absolutely -- Anderson, it was the most incredible -- other than the birth of my kids, it was the most incredible experience that I have ever -- I have ever had.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Congresswoman -- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you're breaking up. We appreciate you being on the phone with us, as well as Senator Gillibrand.

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