Giffords progressing nicely, doctors say

Jan. 14, 2011 at 8:27 AM
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TUCSON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has marked major milestones as she recovers from a gunshot wound to her head, doctors said.

But as remarkable as her progress is -- Giffords opened her eyes, tracked people and objects, moved her arms and dangled her legs over the side of her hospital bed -- doctors warned her progress won't be always as swift during her rehabilitation, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic reported Friday.

"Every milestone, every bit of progress forward is a major exertion," said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tucson. "She will have her ups and downs."

Giffords was among the 13 people injured Saturday when a gunman opened fire during a meet-and-greet at a Tucson grocery store. Six people died. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, of Tucson faces federal charges for the attack.

Support provided by family and friends is difficult to quantify but is a key factor in a patient's recovery, Lemole said.

"In medicine, we like to attribute it to what we do, what others do around us," Lemole said. "But a lot of medicine is outside of our control. We are wise to acknowledge miracles."

Giffords will continue a physical therapy regimen that exercises leg muscles and assesses leg strength, Dr. Peter Rhee, the hospital's trauma chief, said. She also is on a breathing tube but is largely breathing on her own, doctors said.

Removing the tube "will be the next major milestone," Rhee said.

Safeway, owner of the grocery store where the shooting took place, took out a full-page ad in Thursday's edition of Tucson's Arizona Daily Star, saying it is proud to be part of a community that cares so deeply for one another, CNN reported. The company said it was working to reopen the store.

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