Giffords told of shooting, improving 'leaps and bounds'
Will likely be able to travel to see shuttle launch, docs say
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been told some details about the Jan. 8 mass shooting that left her in critical condition, her doctors said Friday.
The congresswoman is "responding beautifully" to rehabilitation, said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the head of her rehab team, speaking at a Houston press conference.
"She has been told (about the shooting), both by her husband and by us," said Dr. Dong Kim..
Doctors couldn't say if Giffords has been told about the other victims of the shooting incident.
"As I understand, it was about her (condition), and not so much the whole event," he said.
"She understands and obviously she needs to know, so that has been part of the process," Kim said.
Giffords has no memory of the event, Kim said. It's common for trauma victims to not recall being injured, he said.
Giffords was shot through the left side of the brain. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the attack on a constituent meeting outside a Northwest Side grocery store.
The congresswoman is improving by "leaps and bounds in terms of neurological recovery," Kim said.
"I don't think she's going to have any memory problems," he said. Giffords' memories from before the shooting are normal, he said.
In the weeks since she arrived at the TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation center in Houston, Giffords has gone from mouthing words to speaking in complete sentences, doctors said.
She'll say things like "'I'm tired, I want to go to bed,'" Kim said.
"Her speech is getting very good," Kim said. "She's starting to string words together" and can repeat whatever doctors say.
"That's an important important neurological recovery fact, because what that means is that her whole primary language areas are intact," Kim said.
"We can really have a conversation with her at this point," he said.
Although Giffords is still weak, she can walk with assistance and can see out of her left eye.
"We don't expect vision problems," Kim said.
She is receiving 3-5 hours of therapy daily, Francisco said.
Kim described Giffords as upbeat and forward-looking, and said her personality is showing.
"I feel like I know her very well, because she can express her personality," Francisco said.
Giffords laughs and is excited when she reaches a milestone in therapy, doctors said.
Doctors said Giffords would likely be able to travel to watch her husband, Mark Kelly, pilot the space shuttle when Endeavour launches April 19.
Although it's still early, doctors are "planning towards that," said Francisco. "We have to make sure it's safe for her" to travel to Florida, he said.
"It’s a good possibility that she will be able to attend her husband’s space shuttle launch next month," Kim said.
Giffords gave a "very excited" fist pump when her tracheostomy was removed, said Dr. Imoigele Aisiku.
Giffords has shown "continuous neurological improvement that has allowed us to challenge her" by upgrading her rehab regimen, Francisco said.
She is showing "better movement, better speaking," he said, saying that Giffords is "responding beautifully" to rehabilitation.
"We're more aggressively addressing therapies aimed at improving movement," he said.
Giffords is "gaining more movement, she’s gaining more ability to do things for herself, Francisco said. "The amount of assistance she needs has decreased significantly."
Doctors have not set a timeline for a transition to outpatient therapy. "Not quite yet," Francisco told reporters.
Surgery to reattach part of Giffords skull—which was removed to forestall injury from brain swelling—will be performed in May, Kim said.
"That's the normal time frame," he said. "Typically we replace that about three or four months after injury."
Reattachment isn't necessary for Giffords to travel, he said. Giffords wears a helmet for protection.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, had a not guilty plea entered Wednesday on 49 counts in the Jan. 8 mass shooting that left six dead and 13 wounded. The death penalty is a possibility in 14 of the counts, if prosecutors choose to pursue it.
A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will likely not be made for months.
Loughner is accused of the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of six people and the wounding of 12 others at a "Congress On Your Corner" meet and greet event.
Killed were U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer, and bystanders Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Dorwan Stoddard.
Giffords is undergoing treatment at a Houston rehabilitation center. The other victims were released from the hospital in January.
Check back for updates.