Doctors: Rep. Giffords, other shooting victims continue to improve

2011-01-10T10:08:00Z 2011-01-10T12:10:51Z Doctors: Rep. Giffords, other shooting victims continue to improveArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 10, 2011 10:08 am  • 

There was no change in Congresswman Gabrielle Giffords' condition overnight, which doctors say is a good sign.

She is still responding to commands and gave doctors a thumbs-up with her left hand, said Dr. Peter M. Rhee, who is medical director of the trauma center at Tucson's University Medical Center, where Giffords remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Giffords' staff member Ron Barber is also in intensive care recovering from gunshot wounds to the leg and to the face and neck area, Rhee said. Barber, who is in serious condition, underwent six hours of surgery Saturday and is expected to have another surgery this week.

A total of eight people injured in Saturday's shooting remain hospitalized at UMC, including Giffords, who was shot through the left side of her brain.

Five people are listed in serious condition and two more are listed in fair condition. Giffords is the only patient in critical condition.

"At this phase in the game, no change is good, and we have no change," neurosurgeon Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr. , said about Giffords' medical status during a news conference at the hospital this morning. "The CAT scans are showing that there is no progression of that swelling. We're not out of the woods yet. That swelling can sometimes take three days or five days to maximize. But every day that goes by and we don't see an increase, we're slightly more optimistic."

It is too early to assess Giffords' vision issues, he said.

Lemole said Giffords will continue to use a breathing tube until the fear of brain swelling is gone, for at least four or five more days. He would not say whether Giffords will be able to speak once the ventilator is removed.

While doctors work to help the shooting victims heal from their wounds, Rhee said they also are focused on dealing with post-traumatic stress issues as well as depression, noting that there are patients recovering who are also facing the loss of loved ones who died in the shooting. He said some of the patients face additional surgeries.

"That's the part we're really going to be really concentrating on. Sometimes it's not as newsworthy, but it's vitally important to take care of these patients all the way through the spectrum of trauma care."

The hospital will next hold a news conference on Wednesday morning to update the condition of the shooting victims.

Both Rhee and Lemole praised the response of the Tucson community.

"We all know we can't undo the events that have occurred. However, the city of Tucson has obviously been very heavily affected and I'm very proud to be a citizen of Tucson as we see the amount of care and thoughts that have come forward. It's been tremendous," Rhee said. "The community I think is pulling through this very well I think. There's been tremendous amounts of offerings and a lot of food being brought to the hospital...Those types of activities are very well appreciated."

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