Obama: Giffords opens her eyes

Jan. 12, 2011 at 10:36 PM
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TUCSON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has opened her eyes for the first time since she was critically wounded in Tucson, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

Addressing a memorial service for six people killed in the shooting Saturday, Obama said he had visited Giffords in the hospital -- where she was still listed in critical condition -- and told the audience, "Gabby opened her eyes for the first time."

Earlier in the day, doctors said they were encouraged by Giffords' progress. Dr. Peter Rhee of the University Medical Center in Tucson said Giffords still was making more and more spontaneous movements -- even fixing her hospital gown on her own.

"We're very happy at this point," Rhee said of Giffords' progress, but noted she is still in a critical phase of her recovery. He said he is hoping to have a clearer picture by Friday.

Giffords was among the casualties when a gunman opened fire at her constituent meet-and-greet outside a Tucson grocery store Saturday. Six people were killed, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and 14 wounded, including the congresswoman. Jared Loughner, 22, has been charged in the rampage and is being held without bond.

Rhee told reporters there is no doubt Giffords will suffer some permanent brain damage from the bullet that ripped through the left side of her brain.

"But will she be functional, viable, normal, you know, I can't say for sure but I am very hopeful that she will be," the Arizona Daily Star quoted Rhee as saying. "We have really decreased the amount of sedation we are giving her and as a result of that she's becoming more and more spontaneous all the time."

The Arizona Republic reported Giffords is still on a respirator, even though she can breathe on her own, to make sure her airways stay clear of fluids.

Five of the others injured in Saturday's shooting also remain hospitalized, three in serious condition and two in fair condition.

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