U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ transfer from Tucson to a Houston hospital went “flawlessly,” said Dr. Randall Friese of University Medical Center.
The trip today was very well planned, Friese said at a Houston news conference this afternoon.
As the ambulance traveled this morning through Tucson to an airplane waiting at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the group inside, including Giffords, could hear applause several times from people lining the route, he said. “She responded very well to that — smiling, and in fact, even tearing up a little bit. It was very emotional, very special,” Friese said.
"I think she understood the immense support our city has for her."
Giffords was interacting with her husband and mother during the flight from Tucson, he said.
Her helmet has an Arizona flag on it, Friese said.
Friese said, “We love her. We’re going to miss her while she’s here. But this is where she needs to be.”
Her family support, particularly from her husband, Mark Kelly, will help her in the coming weeks and months, he said. "That is one thing that has helped her do so well is his optimism."
Dr. John Holcomb said Giffords is to start rehabilitation this afternoon in the ICU at the trauma hospital in Houston. She needs to stay in the ICU for now because of the risk of infection, and because she has a drain in the brain as part of her care, he said.
“It could not have gone better,” Holcomb said of the move.
Dr. Gerard Francisco said she has "great rehabilitation potential." She has a good range of motion, he said, and they will try to get her up on her feet.
"She's clearly aware of her surroundings," said Dr. Dong Kim. "Over the next few months she's going to have a remarkable recovery."
"She looks fantastic," he added.
Kim said she is alert, has good movement on the left side of her body, good tone in her legs, which he said is a precursor to better functionality. Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the left hemisphere of her brain in the Jan. 8 shooting.
Doctors in Houston had not seen movement in her left arm, but nurses in Tucson did, Kim told reporters.
For the type of wound she suffered, Kim called her injury "minimal."
Doctors want to get her out of the ICU as soon as possible because of the risk of pneumonia, infection and deep-vein thrombosis. They wouldn't estimate how long she will stay in ICU, other than "days to weeks," and said they will reassess her drain early next week, which will be a deciding factor.