Husband of Wounded US Lawmaker to Return to Space

This January 9, 2011 photo released by Congressworman Gabrielle Giffords' office shows Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, holding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) hand in her hospital room at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords remains in critical condition after being shot in the head after a gunman opened fire during a political event in Tucson on Saturday. (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Office/Handout )

Feb 5 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — NASA says astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded U.S. lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, will return to command the space shuttle Endeavour on its final mission in April.

The space agency says Kelly will resume training Monday for the trip to the International Space Station.

At a press conference, Kelly said Giffords’ ability to improve rapidly from a bullet wound in the head influenced his decision to rejoin the mission. He said he originally thought her pace of improvement would be much slower, and that he questioned his future as an astronaut.

Kelly would not share details on Giffords’ condition or prognosis, except to say that doctors think she will make a “really good” recovery.

A NASA official, Brent Jett, said he is glad Kelly is returning to command the mission. He said he is confident Kelly will not be distracted by his wife’s health situation.

Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Tuscon, Arizona nearly a month ago.

Giffords was recently moved from Tucson to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston, where Kelly trains at the Johnson Space Center.

Six people were killed in the Arizona shooting rampage on January 8, including a U.S. federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

Scott Kelly, Mark Kelly’s twin brother and fellow astronaut, said this week he is “absolutely 100 percent confident” his brother will be able to fulfill his responsibilities if he chooses to fly Endeavour. Scott Kelly is the current commander of the International Space Station.

NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet this year.  (*)

Doc: Giffords hears cheers leaving Ariz., smiles

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords


HOUSTON, Jan 21 (KATAKAMI / AP)  – She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes.

The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation.

Children sat on their parents’ shoulders as the motorcade passed. Many waved. Others carried signs wishing “Gabby” well.

“It was very emotional and very special,” said Dr. Randall Friese, who traveled with Giffords.

By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately.

After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center’s rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann.

Giffords has “great rehabilitation potential,” said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann.

“She will keep us busy, and we will keep her busy as well,” he said.

The first thing is to determine the extent of Giffords’ injuries and the impact on her abilities to move and communicate. She hasn’t spoken yet, and it’s unknown whether she will suffer permanent disabilities.

A gunman shot Giffords and 18 other people on Jan. 8 as she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died. The suspect in the attack, Jared Loughner, 22, is being held in federal custody.

Since she was hospitalized at University Medical Center in Tucson, Giffords has made progress nearly every day, with characteristically cautious surgeons calling her improvement remarkable.

Each new press conference seemingly yields a few more details about the Giffords that her family knows.

Tracy Culbert, a nurse who accompanied Giffords and the congresswoman’s husband, Houston-based astronaut Mark Kelly, on the flight, described her as being captivated by a ring on Culbert’s finger. The nurse took it off and Giffords put it on her own hand.

“She was taking it off my hand and I asked if she wanted to see it,” Culbert said.

Asked how she felt about leaving Giffords on Friday to return to Arizona, Culbert replied, “Do you want me to cry?

“She’s a very gentle person,” Culbert said, “and her personality is coming out with her touches, the way she touches us, the way she looks at us, and I am very lucky to know her.”

Then, she added: “I have a lot of hope for her, and I know she’s going to do great.”

Doctors said Giffords will stay in the intensive care unit for now because she has a drain to remove fluid buildup in her brain. She was going to begin rehab immediately, with a session scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Because part of her skull was removed during surgery, a helmet was made to protect her brain. Friese said Giffords’ husband asked them to make another one — with the Arizona flag on it.

“We immediately got one the next day,” Friese said.

Specialists ranging from physical and occupational therapists to speech therapists and psychologists will give a slew of tests to see what she can and cannot do.

They’ll determine the strength of her legs and her ability to stand and walk; the strength of her arms, and whether she can brush her teeth or comb her hair; whether she can safely swallow on her own; how well she thinks and communicates — not just her ability to speak, but also to understand and comprehend.

While she is moving both arms and legs, it’s uncertain how much strength she has on her right side; the bullet passed through the left side of her brain, which controls the right side of the body.

Giffords, 40, has some weakness or paralysis on her right side, said Dr. Dong Kim, neurosurgery chief at University of Texas Health. He said she can move her leg, and may be able to support herself, but “may not be able to move it when she wants.”

During a half-hour exam, she didn’t move her right arm, but Kim said he was told that she could move it.

Giffords will stay at Memorial Hermann until she no longer needs 24-hour medical care — the average is one to two months. Then she can get up to five hours a day of physical and other rehab therapies as an outpatient.

The transfer from Tucson was a major milestone among many that Giffords has already passed.

Before they left the hospital, Giffords’ husband tweeted: “GG going to next phase of her recover today. Very grateful to the docs and nurses at UMC, Tucson PD, Sheriffs Dept….Back in Tucson ASAP!”

For some along the route to the airport, the sight of her motorcade seemed like a prayer answered.

Bundled into an ambulance, Giffords slipped away from the hospital, leaving behind the grief and hope embodied in the cards, candles and carnations at a makeshift memorial on the front lawn.

Marine veteran Al Garcia waited anxiously along the route to the airport, his Harley Davidson motorcycle at his side. He wanted to join the back of the caravan to show support for the woman who visited his neighborhood to ask about residents’ concerns.

“It’s through all of these prayers that she’s leaving in just two weeks,” Garcia said.

“The community has just come together so much — all walks of life, no matter what party you belong to,” he said. “They’ve all come together to show their support for her and the other victims of this tragedy.”

Moments later, he and a few other veterans joined the caravan.  (*)


Giffords's husband says she recognizes him

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

Jan 19 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Congressman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, says he is certain his wife recognizes him and is making her awareness of his bedside presence known more than a week after she was shot through the head.

While doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, said over the weekend that Giffords remained mostly incommunicative, Kelly said his spouse is connecting with him through small, but distinct gestures.

“If I hold her hand, she’ll play with my wedding ring,” Kelly, a NASA space shuttle commander, told ABC News in his first television interview since his wife was gravely wounded in a shooting rampage on January 8.

“She’ll move (the ring) up and down my finger. She’ll take it off. … She’ll put it on her own finger. She’ll move it to her thumb. And then she can put it back on my finger,” he said.

Kelly’s full interview was set to air on Tuesday night on a special edition of the prime-time program “20/20.” ABC News released excerpts in advance. Portions also aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline” broadcasts.

“The reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she’s done that before,” Kelly said. “She’ll do that if we’re sitting in a restaurant. She’ll do the same exact movements.”

Kelly told Sawyer in his interview that Giffords, 40, even managed to give him a 10-minute neck rub, “and I keep telling her, ‘Gabby, you’re in the ICU. You know, you don’t need to be going this.'”

He added with a chuckle, “I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t do that to somebody else. And she’s looking me in the eye.”

Kelly’s anecdotes seemed at odds with the level of function described over the weekend by doctors, who said they had seen little sign of Giffords interacting despite upgrading her overall medical condition from critical to serious following removal of a breathing tube that ran through her mouth and down her throat.

That ventilator hose was replaced on Saturday with a tracheotomy tube inserted through her neck and into her windpipe but still leaves her unable to speak.

“She cannot socialize,” Dr. Randall S. Friese, associate medical director of the hospital, told reporters on Monday.

Still, doctors said they were extremely pleased with Giffords’ progress and that the next key milestone she faced would be her discharge from the hospital, marking her graduation from recovery to rehabilitation.

Giffords, a Democrat just elected to her third term representing Tucson and southern Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives, was one of 19 people struck by gunfire at a meet-and-greet with constituents.

Six people were killed and 13 others wounded, Giffords being the most seriously hurt. A 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, is in federal custody charged as the lone gunman in the attack.

Kelly acknowledged that his wife still has a difficult road ahead of her but called her a “really, really tough woman.”

He also told Sawyer that he had worried for his wife’s safety in the past and that they had discussed death threats she had received prior to the shooting.

Husband: Giffords smiled and gave him neck rub

FILE - In this March, 2010 file photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords poses for a photo. Giffords' condition improved to serious on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, after procedures to remove a ventilator were successful. (AP Photo/Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, File)

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM/ AP) — The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says his wife’s condition has improved so much that she has been able to smile and give him a neck rub as he has kept a near-constant vigil at her hospital bedside.

The interactions with astronaut Mark Kelly are new signs of Giffords’ impressive progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head at a political event nine days ago. Giffords still cannot speak, because of a tube in her throat that is helping her breathe.

“She’s in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage,” Kelly explained in an interview with Diane Sawyer to air Tuesday on ABC. “It’s so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she’s looking out for other people.”

Such encounters indicate higher levels of functioning, implying that “she’s recognizing him and interacting, perhaps in an old familiar way with him,” said Dr. Michael Lemole.

Dr. Randall Friese said Kelly also told doctors he saw Giffords smile. He said sometimes people see what they want to see, but that “if he says she’s smiling, I buy it.”

Kelly has also been essential in helping Giffords’ staff through the tragedy, said Mark Kimble, a Tucson staff member who stood only a few feet from Giffords when she was shot.

“There is not a doubt in his mind and not a doubt in any of our minds that she’s going to be back,” Kimble said. “He’s been cheering us up. He’ll come over and when we’re down, he’ll say, ‘Gabby’s going to make it, Gabby’s a little better today.’ That’s a big help to all of us.”

The steady progress for Giffords came on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to remember the legacy of the civil rights leader who was killed by an assassin’s bullet 42 years ago.

Political leaders invoked the assassination attempt against Giffords as they asked Americans to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice.

“Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at King’s former church in Atlanta.

Doctors upgraded Giffords’ condition from critical to serious over the weekend and say they carried out three successful procedures that demonstrate she is recovering well.

A breathing tube was moved from her mouth to her throat along with a separate feeding tube that was shifted from her nose to her stomach. Dr. Randall Friese said removing the tubes in her nose and mouth reduces the risks of infections.

Doctors also said they performed a surgery on Giffords’ eye socket to remove bone fragments to relieve pressure on her eye. There were no complications from the surgery; doctors needed to perform the eye procedure all along but waited until her condition improved to do it.

Elsewhere, doctors have transplanted the corneas from the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shooting that left a total of six dead and 13 wounded. Christina Taylor Green’s father said Monday that the Donor Network of Arizona told him and his wife that the transplants from the 9-year-old have saved the eyesight of two children.

The suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, remained jailed in a federal lockup in Phoenix. Investigators have described him as a mentally unstable man who was kicked out a community college last year and became increasingly erratic in recent months.

He apparently became obsessed with inflicting violence on Giffords since attending one of her campaign events in 2007.

Kelly said he would be willing to meet with the parents of Loughner, who have remained in seclusion since the shooting. Kelly, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, said the parents have to be in a tremendous amount of pain.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not the parents fault,” Kelly told ABC. “You know, I’d like to think I’m a person that’s, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they’ve got to be hurting in this situation as much as much as anybody.”  (*)

Doctors: Giffords Smiling at Husband

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — The husband of the Arizona congresswoman shot in the head during a shooting rampage this month says her condition has improved to the point where she gave him a 10-minute neck massage from her hospital room.

U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly said in an interview with ABC News that the action is typical of Giffords, who he said is always looking out for others. Giffords is in the intensive care unit at a Tucson hospital.

Kelly also said he would be willing to meet with the parents of 22-year-old Jared Loughner, the man charged in the shooting spree that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in Tucson. Kelly told the network that Loughner’s parents must be in a tremendous amount of pain because of the situation.

Giffords’ condition has been upgraded from critical to serious. Doctors treating Giffords say Kelly reported that he saw her smile. They say such encounters imply that Giffords is recognizing him and interacting perhaps in a more familiar way with him.

Separately, the doctors say Giffords had minor surgery to repair a fracture in the roof of her eye socket. They also say she is at the same baseline as before the procedure.

Giffords was shot as she met with constituents outside a grocery store January 8. The dead included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The U.S. House of Representatives resumes work this week, after a one-week suspension following the attack on Giffords. The top item on the agenda for the new House Republican majority is to try to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform initiative.

Doctors have voiced optimism regarding Giffords’s chances of recovery, saying she could be released from the hospital and moved into a rehabilitation facility within “days to weeks.” Recently, she has opened her eyes and is responding to simple commands. Doctors say she is breathing on her own.

Loughner, the suspect, has been charged with five federal felony counts, including the attempted assassination of a member of the U.S. Congress.

Officials say his trial likely will be held outside of Arizona because the federal judge, John Roll, was among those killed. (*)

U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords upgraded from critical to serious

Mark Kelly, the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, holds his wife's hand in the congresswoman's hospital room at University Medical Center, January 9, 2011.

Jan 17, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ medical condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Sunday, eight days after she was shot through the head by a gunman at close range.

Doctors said they upgraded Giffords’ condition because she was no longer attached to a ventilator, having replaced a breathing tube in her throat with a tracheotomy tube inserted into her windpipe on Saturday.

“She is breathing on her own,” said a statement released by the University Medical Center in Tucson. “Yesterday’s procedures were successful and uneventful.”

Doctors also have fitted Giffords with a feeding tube, a practice not uncommon for patients in intensive care with brain injuries.

Giffords, 40, had been the only patient in critical condition from a shooting last Saturday that left 12 other people wounded. Six more gunshot victims died in the rampage. One patient was discharged on Saturday, leaving two others hospitalized in good condition.

A 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, was arrested for the shootings. He is charged with five federal counts, including the murder of a federal judge and the attempted assassination of Giffords.

Federal authorities are planning to move Loughner’s trial to San Diego because of extensive pretrial publicity in Arizona, The Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing federal law enforcement sources.

They cited publicity and the sensitivity of the case in Arizona, where one of those fatally shot was John Roll, the state’s chief federal judge, the Post said.

The new chief judge, Roslyn Silver, will make the final decision about any venue change, but one law enforcement official told the Post, “it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.”

The rampage sparked a national debate about whether the vitriolic tone of partisan politics in the United States in recent years had contributed to the suspect’s motivations. (*)

Doctors replace Giffords' breathing tube

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

TUCSON, Ariz, Jan 15 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – Doctors on Saturday removed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’breathing tube and could soon know if she can speak.

Giffords had an operation Saturday to replace the breathing tube with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. That allows her to breathe better and frees her from the ventilator.

Though Giffords had been breathing on her own since she was shot in the head Jan. 8, doctors had left the breathing tube in as a precaution. A feeding tube was also put in to provide nutrition. Those procedures are not out of the ordinary for brain-injured patients.

Giffords’ doctors have said they should be able to evaluate her ability to speak once the breathing tube is out.

Giffords, who was wounded in last weekend’s attack that killed six people, remains in critical condition at University Medical Center.

“Her recovery continues as planned,” the hospital said in a statement.

Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has remained by her bedside.

One patient was discharged Saturday while two others remain in good condition. (*)

NASA Names Backup Shuttle Commander for Gifford’s Husband

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

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Jan 13 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — The U.S. space agency says it has appointed a backup commander for its upcoming April mission to the International Space Station, while the mission’s original leader tends to his wife, who was shot in the head Saturday.

In a statement Thursday, Astronaut Mark Kelly said he was “hopeful” he would be able to rejoin the mission with space shuttle Endeavor.

It is currently slotted as the final mission for NASA’s 30-year shuttle program.

Kelly’s wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering after being shot in an apparent assassination attempt.

NASA said Kelly remains in charge of the mission, but said designating a backup would allow the mission crew and support team to continue training in Kelly’s absence.

Meanwhile, NASA also announced new launch dates for the two remaining shuttle missions, after several delays prompted by problems with space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank.

NASA announced it plans to launch Discovery on February 24 and said it is targeting April 19 for Endeavor’s launch.

NASA cancelled a planned launch attempt in early November when a hydrogen leak led them to discover cracks in some of the metal supports of Discovery’s fuel tank.

Although these are the final scheduled missions, NASA has said another flight could be added mid-year, before the fleet is set to retire. (*)

Speaker John Boehner : Honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

John Boehner

By : Speaker John Boehner

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YOUTUBE : Speaker Boehner’s Remarks on Resolution Condemning the Attack in Tucson, AZ

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave these remarks Wednesday morning on the House floor :

Washington DC. Jan 12 (KATAKAMI / THE HILL.COM) — Today, we are called here to mourn.  An unspeakable act of violence has taken six innocent lives, and left several more – including our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords – battling for theirs.  These are difficult hours for our country.

Among the fallen is Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff … a public servant of the highest caliber … one of our own.

Even in our shock, we are composed and determined to fulfill our calling to represent our constituents.  This is the great cause for which Gabe gave his life.  Like us, Gabe swore on oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.  At the time of the attack, he was engaged in the most simple and direct of democratic rituals: listening to the people … to his neighbors.

The brutality that shattered Saturday morning’s calm was devastating, but brief.  Bravery and quick thinking prevented a massacre, turning innocent bystanders into heroes.  The service and skill of first responders and medical professionals saved lives.  Law enforcement officials are working to ensure swift justice.  Look to Tucson right now, and you will be reminded that America’s most plentiful source of wealth and strength is her people.

We are so thankful Gabby is still with us.  We are so thankful that two of her staffers who were also wounded – Ron Barber and Pam Simon – are still with us.  These are days they were not supposed to see, and we can only pray there will be more of them.

In her stead, Gabby’s staff has pressed on, opening for business Monday morning, right on schedule.  The men and women who faithfully serve the people of Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District have signaled that no act – no matter how heinous – will stop us from doing our duty and being among the people we serve.

To all of the dedicated professionals we rely on to make this institution work, to each of you: thank you for what you do.  To Gabby’s staff – and their families: please know that our hearts and prayers go out to you.

This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy.  We feel a litany of unwanted emotions no resolution could possibly capture.  We know that we gather here without distinction of party.  The needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship.  And what this institution needs right now is strength – holy, uplifting strength.  The strength to grieve with the families of the fallen, to pray for the wounded, and to chart a way forward, no matter how painful and difficult it may be.

Today it is not ceremony, but tragedy that stirs us to renew our commitment to fulfill our oaths of office.  Let us not let this inhuman act frighten us into doing otherwise.  The free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of our democracy, as prescribed by the First Amendment, that beacon of free expression Congresswoman Giffords recited in this well just days ago.  These rights have not been handed down by dictate – they have been preserved and protect through generations of hard sacrifice and commitment.  We will continue this unfinished work.

We will do it for Christina Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard, ordinary citizens who died participating in their democracy.  We will do it for Judge John Roll.  We will do it for Gabe Zimmerman.  And we will do it, God-willing, with Gabrielle Giffords.

Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not.  This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy.  We may not yet have all the answers, but we already have the answer that matters most: that we are Americans, and together we will make it through this.  We will have the last word.

God bless this House.  God bless this Congress.  God bless America.  (*)

Photos released from Giffords’ hospital room

The office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has provided the public with the first images from the congresswomans hospital room. (Above, below: Mark Kelly clasps hands with his wife Giffords at her bedside. Photo : YAHOO )

The office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has provided the public with the first images from the congresswoman's hospital room. (Above, below: Mark Kelly clasps hands with his wife Giffords at her bedside. Photo : YAHOO )

Gabrielle Giffords in Medically Induced Coma to Help Brain Rest

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

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Jan 9 (KATAKAMI / ABC News) — Doctors say that while the bullet that struck Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did not hit any critical parts of the brain, whether she will survive and how fully she will recover are still unknown.

“This was a devastating wound that traveled the length of the brain on the left side,” Dr. Peter Rhee, trauma director at University Medical Center in Tucson, said during a press conference. Giffords’ family confirmed to ABC affiliate KTRK that the bullet entered the back of her head and exited through her forehead.

Giffords is currently in a medically induced coma that doctors say will help her brain rest. She had surgery to stop the bleeding and help control swelling on the left side of the brain. Doctors also had to decompress her eyes. Eyelids often swell when there is trauma to the brain.

“Brain swelling is the biggest threat at this point,” said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of the the division of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona. To help control swelling, part of Giffords skull was removed and will be reimplanted, possibly in a few months.

Giffords was awakened periodically and she has made nonverbal responses to simple commands, but Rhee said she has not spoken because she is on a ventilator.

Lemole said Giffords was able to squeeze a doctor’s hand and hold up fingers when asked, and these responses are good signs.

“We take them for granted, but they [represent] a high level of function,” he said.

Next Days Crucial to Recovery

The next few days and weeks will be critical to determine how much brain function Giffords has lost, if any. Doctors will keep an especially close eye on the level of brain swelling and also on her ability to recover speech and movement on the right side of her body, which are controlled by the left side of the brain.

“If we do run into trouble in the next few days, we can use medical agents to dry out the brain,” said Rhee. “We can put a tube into the center of the brain to relieve the pressure, but she looks good now.”

In addition to swelling, the risks to Giffords include “CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] leakage through the entry and exit wounds, cerebral artery spasm [vasospasm], seizures, and meningitis or brain abscess,” said Dr. Neil Martin, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Quick Response Helped Gabrielle Giffords After Gunshot

While the worst isn’t yet over for Giffords, a number of factors played a role in her survival thus far. Rhee and Lemole said she benefited from an outstanding response from the medical team who treated her and the fact that they were able to preserve a lot of her brain tissue before the surgery.

Her chances of survival and recovery would be much worse if the bullet had passed through both parts of the brain or hit vital parts.

“Crossing both halves of the brain, involving more lobes of the brain, traversing the fluid-filled spaces of the brain, or injuring the major blood vessels at the base of the brain are all indicators of a worse prognosis,” said Dr. Atif Haque, a neurosurgeon at the Fort Worth Brain & Spine Institute. “Crossing the ‘geographic’ center of the brain is essentially non-survivable.”

Over the next few months, doctors hope to get a better idea of her cognitive deficits. Her recovery could take years, and she could be in the hospital for several months.

“The faster your recovery, the better your recovery will be. That’s a general rule of thumb,” said Lemole.

Rhee said he is optimistic based on what he has seen so far.

“When you get shot through the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chance of your living is very small and the chance of you waking up and following commands is small.”  (*)



REMARKS: Speaker Boehner Addresses Tragic Shooting in Arizona

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks about the shooting in Arizona during a news conference in West Chester, Ohio, January 9, 2011. A gunman shot U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, seriously wounding her, and killed six other people in a shooting rampage at a public meeting in Tucson on Saturday. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete

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WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 9 (KATAKAMI / SPEAKER.GOV) — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks from West Chester, Ohio this morning regarding the tragic shooting in Arizona:

“Good morning. The thoughts and prayers of the House and the nation are with Congresswoman Giffords and her family. We’re also praying for the families of Judge Roll and all of those who were taken from us yesterday so senselessly. Among the fallen is Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff, and I’ve directed that the flags on the House side of the Capitol be flown at half mast in honor of Gabe’s death in the line of duty.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Such acts of violence have no place in our society. I want to commend the federal, state and local officials, as well as the Capitol Police, for all of their efforts. And I’ve told the FBI Director that the House stands ready to assist in any way possible.

“Last night, the Majority Leader announced that the normal business of the House in the coming week has been postponed so that we can take necessary action regarding yesterday’s events. The Majority Leader will announce a revised schedule.

“To the members of the House and their staffs, I ask that you on this Sabbath day that we keep Gabby and her staff in our thoughts and prayers. Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk. This inhuman act should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office. No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty.”  (*)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Critical Condition After Shooting

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

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Jan 8 (KATAKAMI / ABC NEWS) — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords survived a gunshot to the head after a gunman opened fire at an event she was hosting outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store.

Authorities said 13 people were wounded and five killed in the attack. Among the dead were a federal judge and a nine year-old girl.

President Barack Obama, speaking at a nationally televised news conference, called the shooting an unspeakable tragedy.

“What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other, so at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers,” he said. “We are going to get to the bottom of this and we’re going to get through this.”

“The suspect is currently in custody, but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act,” the president said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was headed to Arizona to coordinate the investigation, Obama said. Federal authorities have jurisdiction in an attack on a sitting member of Congress.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot during an appearance in Tucson, Arizona is seen meeting with an elderly constituent in an undated 2010 handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign on January 8, 2011. Rep. Giffords, 40, a Democrat, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. Giffords was alive but in surgery at a hospital on Saturday after a shooting that also injured at least nine other people, a hospital spokeswoman said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/Handout

Giffords, 40, was among was taken to University Medical Center, where she underwent brain surgery and was listed in critical condition.

Dr. Peter Rhee, trauma director at UMC, told reporters Giffords was shot once in the head and that the bullet went through her brain. He added that she was responsive to doctors’ commands.

“I am very optimistic about her recovery,” Rhee said.

Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, was en route to Tucson from Houston, where he has been preparing to command the last scheduled space shuttle mission, which is supposed to launch in April.

A surgeon at UMC said it had received 10 patients after the shooting. Five, including Giffords, were in critical condition; five are still undergoing surgery, Dr. Peter Rhee of UMC said.

At least five people, including Federal District Chief Judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl, were killed in the attack, law enforcement sources said.

The shooter, identified by multiple law enforcement sources as Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was in custody, but law enforcement officials are still treating the incident as an active crime scene. The Pima County Sheriff’s Office was taking the lead of the investigation and was assisted by the FBI, Joint Counterterrorism Task Force and the U.S. Capitol Police.

An urgent email message to members of Congress from the Capitol Police informed them of the shooting and advised them to “take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security at home and in public forums.”

Giffords, a Democrat, was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson when the shooting occurred.

Steven Rayle, who was at the event, told ABC News a man approached Giffords and shot her before turning his gun on other people randomly.

Rayle described the shooter as a Caucasian male in his 20s wearing dark clothes.

“I went to the side of the table by a concrete post and I looked up and saw a man shoot her in the head. And then he began spraying gunfire everywhere. At that point I ducked behind a concrete post and as he came around it,” he said. “The whole thing unfolded in about 12 or 15 seconds. As he came around it I laid down on the ground and acted as if I was shot.”

Rayle, who eventually helped subdue the shooter, said the gunman had an “impassive face” as he was shooting.

“He did try to escape and I think one of her staffers tackled him,” Rayle said. “I assisted in holding him down until more people arrived. He did struggle. He did not say anything.”

Jason Pekau, another witness who worked at a nearby Sprint store, said he heard 15 to 20 gunshots and saw lots of people running and screaming that the Congresswoman had been shot.

Pekau also said two bodies were covered on the sidewalk after emergency responders had arrived at the scene.

A Democratic member of Congress who asked not to be identified said one of the dead was a Giffords staffer.

Official Washington was in shock after the shooting and statements condemning the violence poured in from both sides of the political aisle.

“Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement.

House Speaker John Boehner said he was “horrified” and strongly condemned the attack.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” he said in a statement.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the shooting a “national tragedy” and praised Giffords as a “brilliant and courageous member of Congress.”

Giffords Had Been Target of Vandals

Giffords, a representative for Arizona’s 8th District who just won reelection to a third term, has been the target of conservative political opponents in recent months.

In March of last year, Giffords’ office was vandalized just after she voted in favor of the health care reform law. The intruders destroyed a glass door and a window at her Tucson Congressional offices.

At the time, Giffords’ press secretary C.J. Karamargin said the office had received many phone calls with “nasty and rude and hateful comments” from opponents of the health care bill.

Recently Giffords, who supports gun rights, has been receiving angry letters from anonymous sources, ranting about the supposed national gun registry and border control.

One letter received on Dec. 15 addressed to “giffords, obama, mccain and sen. Jon kyl” got personal on the topic of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, who was killed in a late night shootout at the U.S.-Mexican border.

“Brian a Terry’s blood is on your hands! How many more legal residents of the USA have to die before the border is CLOSED??? Obama I call you out! CLOSE THE DAMN BORDER NOW! Quit pandering to illegals!,” the letter read.

Giffords has a reputation as a political rebel. She voted with the Democratic party about 40 percent of the time, according to Congressional Quarterly, though she supported her party’s effort to pass a landmark health reform law.

She was also one of a handful of Democrats who did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the house, during the recent Democratic leadership elections after Democrats lost their majority in the House last November. (*)


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