THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Reports of Arizona
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' heartening medical progress
continued to arrive Thursday, five days after she was struck in the
head at close range by an assassin's bullet.
Giffords' doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson said
Thursday morning that she was able to keep her eyes open for up to
15 minutes at a time and can move her legs and one of her hands,
The New York Times reported.
"She is doing some fairly specific things with her left hand," Dr. Peter Rhee, the hospital's chief of trauma, said during a news conference. "She is yawning. She is starting to rub her eyes."
Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr., chief of neurosurgery at the
hospital, said Giffords can also "move both of her legs to
command," the newspaper reported.
The next key step will be removing her breathing tube, and
perhaps have her sit in a chair on Friday, said Rhee, who has
treated soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The doctors want to
ensure that Giffords doesn't regress and are watching for pneumonia
and blood clots, the
Associated Press reported.
During a speech Wednesday at the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and
America" memorial, President Barack Obama said Giffords "opened her
eyes" for the first time shortly after his visit with her and her
husband Mark Kelly at University Medical Center,
CBS News reported.
An aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
confirmed that Pelosi, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) were in the hospital room when
Giffords opened her eyes. The three women are all close friends of
Giffords, the news network said.
During his speech, Obama said, "Gabby opened her eyes for the
first time. I can tell you, she knows we are here, she knows we
love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is
undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for
USA Today, Wasserman Schultz said the events inside Giffords' hospital room Wednesday were like "watching a miracle."
Reports of the events in Giffords' room followed word from her
doctors Wednesday that she continued to make progress.
"She has a 101 percent chance of surviving," Rhee told the
AP. "She will not die."
Lemole, Giffords' neurosurgeon, added that doctors left a
breathing tube in the 40-year-old woman to protect her airways, but
she is drawing breaths on her own, and is alert and responding to
Still, experts said Giffords likely suffered some permanent
damage, but it's not yet clear how extensive that damage might
Dr. David Langer, director of cerebrovascular research at the
Cushing Neuroscience Institutes, part of North Shore/Long Island
Jewish Medical Center in Great Neck, N.Y., said: "She's probably
going to survive in all likelihood, but months or even a year from
now we may not know what her ultimate prognosis will be."
"She'll likely have a deficit in the near term, but we don't know if she'll end up in a wheelchair like James Brady [President Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was injured by a bullet during a 1981 assassination attempt on the president] or a functioning Congresswoman. We can't know," added Langer, who was not involved with Giffords' care.
Giffords was gravely injured, 13 others were wounded, and six
people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed when a 22-year-old
man, Jared Loughner, pulled out a semiautomatic Glock pistol in
front of a Safeway supermarket on Saturday in Tucson, where
Giffords was meeting constituents. A Democrat, she was first
elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.
The fact that Giffords is alive is a bit of a miracle.
According to Langer, 90 percent of people with gunshot wounds to
the head die.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on
traumatic brain injury.
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