Docs: 101% chance for Giffords, able to breathe on her own
'She will not die—she does not have that permission from me' - Doc
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is able to breathe on her own, doctors said Tuesday.
Giffords remains on a ventilator to help her recovery, said neurosurgeon G. Michael Lemole Jr.
Giffords now has a "101 percent chance" of surviving Saturday's shot to the head, said trauma surgeon Peter Rhee.
"She will not die—she does not have that permission from me," he said.
Monday, Rhee said the congresswoman's chances of survival were 100 percent.
Giffords remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, they said.
"It's going to happen on her timeline, not ours," Lemole said.
"She has no right to look as good as she does, but we all have to be patient," said Lemole, noting that recovery from a shot through the brain can take a long time.
"She's on her own schedule," he said. "It's a week to week, month to month" healing process."
Doctors have been able to "back off" the sedation the congresswoman is receiving, Lemole said.
Giffords is responding to commands by moving on both sides of her body, Rhee said.
Some tests involve testing responses to pain, he said.
"We do a test called a sternal rub," he said, by pushing down hard on the breastbone to cause a response.
"We say, 'Gabby, show me your thumb' and push down," he said.
She now responds to the request by giving a thumbs up to avoid the push, he said. "She's doing it on her own."
Doctors have reversed their assessment of the direction of the bullet, saying it most likely traveled front to back through Giffords' head.
The direction of the bullet could make a small difference in the long term effect of the shooting, but it's too early to tell the extent of long-term damage, said Rhee.
"We have to play this according to her timeline, not ours, and we have to avoid the frustration that so often her family will feel, we her doctors will feel, and all of you will feel," Lemole said. "She's going to take her recovery at her own pace."
"What her recovery is going to do I really don't know. I'm very optimistic however that she's not going to be in a vegetative type of state," Rhee said Monday.
"I think she's going to make a fair amount of recovery. What kind of deficits she'll have in the future I really can't say at this point but I'm still very optimistic," Rhee said.
Two military doctors were brought in to consult on the case.
Because Rep. Giffords’ husband is on active duty in the Navy as well as being an astronaut, military resources were made available to UMC, Rhee said.
Dr. Geoffrey Ling, a colonel who specializes in brain trauma, and Dr. James Ecklund, a retired colonel who chairs the department of neurosciences at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, are assisting on the case.
The care Giffords received saved her life, Ecklund said.
"Dr. Rhee’s team’s aggressive resuscitation and Dr. Lemole’s team’s precise surgical intervention saved her life. Her ICU care is equally outstanding, providing the optimum environment for brain healing," he said.
Ling, who canceled a mission to Afghanistan to consult on her case, said Giffords' injury is very serious.
"She was shot. The bullet did enter her skull; the bullet did traverse through her brain and then exited out the back leaving behind some fragments of bone, so she is critically ill," Ling said. "The good news is that she is, in fact, thriving under the very good - excellent - care here."
Six patients remain at University Medical Center. Giffords is still in critical condition, as is one other patient. Of the other patients, 1 is in serious condition and three are in fair condition, doctors said.
One patient was undergoing surgery Tuesday morning.
Six were killed and 14 others were shot by a lone gunman at a constituent meet and greet event held by Giffords on Saturday morning, authorities said.
Accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22, made an initial appearance in a Phoenix court Monday. Loughner faces five federal charges in the killings of U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a member of Giffords' staff; and attempting to kill Giffords and two other staffers: Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.