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Giffords recovering at 'lightning speed'

'Full course of rehab' begun

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is doing "remarkably well," doctors said Wednesday.

The congresswoman is undergoing intense physical therapy, and is recovering at "lightning speed," said Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon at Texas Medical Center.

"She's done remarkably well," doctors said at an afternoon press conference.

Giffords is ready to being a "full course of rehab," doctors said in a news release.

Giffords was moved to the TIRR Memorial Hermann rehab facility at Houston's Texas Medical Center early Wednesday, after doctors upgraded her condition from serious to good.

"The congresswoman has done very well in her therapy sessions in the ICU," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, chief medical officer of TIRR, in an afternoon news release. "It will be good to have her at TIRR Memorial Hermann where we can devote more time to her rehabilitation and recovery."

Giffords is undergoing physical and speech therapy, although she cannot yet speak because of a breathing tube in her throat.

A speaking valve will be placed in the tube, doctors said.

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While the tube cannot be immediately removed, doctors plan to lessen Giffords' dependence on it, they said.

"We can say that her speech function, along with everything else, is improving," Kim said, but declined to elaborate.

Giffords can breathe on her own and swallow safely, said Dr. Imoigele Aisiku, director of neurocritical care.

A drain inserted into her brain to relieve excess cerebrospinal fluid buildup was removed Monday.

"The drain that had been placed in Tucson was removed and her condition continued to improve, clearing the way for her move" to the rehab center, Kim said.

"There's a good chance she's not going to need a (permanent) shunt," said Kim.

Giffords still has "some weakness" on her right side, but is "seeing improvement every day," doctors said. Doctors said they wouldn't characterize her difficulty moving on her right as paralysis.

Giffords' vision has not been formally tested, doctors said.

There is no evidence of infection, Kim said.

Giffords is awake "about as much as you or I are," said Aisiku.

Giffords' rehab will focus on building strength and conditioning, and increasing her range of motion, doctors said.

"It's a busy afternoon already and I anticipate it will be more so in the coming days," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the head of Giffords' rehabilitation team.

Doctors said they had honored Giffords' family's request to not provide medical updates until she was transferred to the rehab facility.

Her husband, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, said that the long road of rehab will mean less frequent updates in the future.

"This next phase is more of a marathon than a sprint," he said in a statement. "With that in mind, we ask that you respect our decision to reduce the frequency of medical updates going forward."

"We recognize how important it is to update the people of southern Arizona and across the country who are keeping Gabby in their daily prayers and thoughts," Kelly said. "I promise that when there is important news to report, we will get it to you."

Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot to the head suffered in what authorities characterize as an assassination attempt, was transferred to Houston's Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center from Tucson's University Medical Center last Friday.

Her condition was upgraded from serious to good Tuesday, hospital spokeswoman Natalie Wong Camarata said in a late night press release.

Giffords has been in the intensive care unit at the Houston facility, where she has made "strong progress," Camarata said.

"This evening, her doctors upgraded her condition from serious to good and determined that she is ready to move to TIRR Memorial Hermann," Camarata said Tuesday.

The Texas hospital was chosen because it is one of the best rehab facilities in the country, and because it is close to the Johnson Space Center, where Giffords' husband, Navy captain and astronaut Mark Kelly, is stationed.

Six were killed and 12 others, besides Giffords, were wounded in the Jan. 8 attack at a constituent meet-and-greet at a Northwest Side grocery store.

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has been charged with 5 federal counts in the shootings. He was arraigned on 3 charges Monday, and likely faces other state charges in the shootings.

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2 comments on this story

2
524 comments
Jan 26, 2011, 3:20 pm
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TucsonGirl wrote:

     
Thanks for the update :)

Thanks for reading (and commenting), TucsonGirl!

1
116 comments
Jan 26, 2011, 3:16 pm
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Thanks for the update :)

Sorry, we missed your input...

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Click image to enlarge

courtesy Giffords' office

Capt. Mark Kelly, Rep. Giffords' husband, holds her hand during the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Statement from U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, released this statement just after the Houston doctors' press conference:

Thank you for your continued prayers and good wishes. As you have heard, Gabby is doing very well and with the intensive rehabilitation program planned for her at TIRR, we continue to be extremely optimistic in her recovery.

The doctors, nurses and support staff at TIRR are among the best in the world. They have emphasized to us that this next phase is more of a marathon than a sprint. With that in mind, we ask that you respect our decision to reduce the frequency of medical updates going forward.

We recognize how important it is to update the people of southern Arizona and across the country who are keeping Gabby in their daily prayers and thoughts. I promise that when there is important news to report, we will get it to you. In the meantime, from the bottom of all of our hearts, thank you for the support.