Doctors voice high hopes for Giffords

2011-01-22T00:00:00Z 2011-01-22T01:29:35Z Doctors voice high hopes for GiffordsNorma Coile and Jill Jorden Spitz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a temporary resident of Houston, but no one there is going to forget that she's an Arizonan.

When she first got a helmet to protect her exposed brain, her husband, Mark Kelly, immediately asked for a replacement, Dr. Randall Friese, one of her doctors at University Medical Center, said during a news conference in Houston on Friday. She's going to want one with the Arizona flag on it, Kelly told the UMC staff.

During her stay at UMC, Giffords won over the staff with her determination and spirit, Friese said.

"We love her," he said in Houston Friday. "We're going to miss her while she's here. But this is where she needs to be."

He attributed part of her recovery from damage suffered when she was shot in the head Jan. 8 to the attitude of her husband, who clearly believes his wife can and will recover.

"One thing that has helped her do so well is his optimism," Friese said.

Trauma surgeon Dr. John Holcomb said Giffords was to start rehabilitation Friday afternoon in the ICU at Texas Medical Center, where she was flown Friday. She needs to stay in the ICU for now because of the risk of infection, and because she has a drain in the brain because of fluid buildup, he said.

But doctors want to get her out of ICU and into the center's TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital as soon as possible because of the threat of pneumonia, infection and deep-vein thrombosis, common among people who spend two weeks or more in intensive care. They wouldn't estimate how long she will stay in the ICU, other than "days to weeks," and said early next week they will reassess her drain, which will be a deciding factor.

As she improves, her physical therapy will be intensified. Already, it's clear that she has "great rehabilitation potential," said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

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."

Kim said she is alert and has good movement on the left side of her body and 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 that left six people dead and 12 others wounded.

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."

Giffords' interactions good sign, docs say

Doctors are encouraged that Gabrielle Giffords is interacting so much with her family and caregivers.

She is clearly aware of her surroundings and is interacting with gestures, such as turning away from the glare of bright lights or pushing away doctors who are doing things she doesn't like, Dr. Dong Kim said. She also is moving her lips in what appears to be an attempt to speak, doctors said.

During the trip from Tucson, Giffords was tugging at a ring worn by UMC nurse Tracy Culbert. Culbert said she took off the ring and handed it to Giffords, who held it up and looked at it closely. Then Giffords put the ring on her own finger and wouldn't let anyone take it off.

Speaking at a press conference in Houston on Friday before returning to Tucson, Culbert said she'll miss her famous patient's sweet nature and gentle ways.

"I'm very lucky to know her and to know her family," Culbert said.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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