Surgeons say Giffords showing positive signsPosted: Sunday, January 9, 2011
Doctors treating wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords provided an optimistic update Sunday about her chances for survival, saying they are "very, very encouraged" by her ability to respond to simple commands along with their success in controlling her bleeding.
The FBI said law enforcement could bring charges against the gunman as early as Sunday, and House Speaker John Boehner said normal House business this week has been postponed in the aftermath of the shooting.
Surgeons said a bullet went through Giffords' head on the left side of the brain, but she is still able to respond nonverbally to commands such as squeezing a hand or showing two fingers. They credited several reasons for her survival, including good luck and the fact that paramedics got her to surgeons quickly _ in under 40 minutes.
"This is about as good as it is going to get," said Dr. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon. "When you get shot in the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chances of you living is very small and the chances of you waking up and actually following commands is even much smaller than that. Hopefully it will stay that way."
Surgeons worked to reduce pressure from swelling in her head by removing bone fragments, and they also removed a small amount of badly damaged brain. Giffords cannot speak because she is on a ventilator.
Dr. Michael Lemole of the University Medical Center in Tucson would not speculate on her degree of recovery. "We talk about recovery in months to years," he said.
The medical prognosis came as authorities investigated the motivation of a gunman in an attempted assassination of the three-term Democrat and the killing of six people, including a federal judge, an aide to Giffords and a 9-year-old girl who was born on Sept. 11, 2001.
Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by the FBI as Jared Loughner, 22. He was described by friends as a pot-smoking loner who was rejected by the Army when he tried to enlist in 2008. He dropped out of a local community college after having five contacts with campus police for classroom and library disruptions last year.
His motivation was not immediately known, but Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice.
Authorities said Giffords, 40, was targeted at a public gathering by a man with a semiautomatic weapon around 10 a.m. Saturday outside a busy Tucson supermarket. Fourteen people were injured.
He also fired at her district director and shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a communications staffer for Giffords.
"He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director," Kimble said, describing the scene as "just complete chaos, people screaming, crying."
One of the victims was Christina-Taylor Green, who was a member of the student council at her local school and went to the event because of her interest in government. She is the grandaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.
She was born on 9/11 and featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that chronicled one baby from each state born on the day terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people.
The fact that Christina's life ended in tragedy was especially tragic to those who knew her. "Tragedy seems to have happened again," said the author of the book, Christine Naman. "In the form of this awful event."
Authorities said the dead included U.S. District Judge John M. Roll; Greene; Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79. Judge Roll had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass.
His office said a man possibly associated with Loughner (pronounced LAWF'-ner) who was near the scene was being sought. Law enforcement released an image of a man photographed by a security camera at the Safeway store. He was described as white with dark hair and 40-45 years old.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said Loughner bought the Glock 9-mm handgun last year.
In one of several YouTube videos, which featured text against a dark background, Loughner described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about the illiteracy rate among people living in Giffords' congressional district in Arizona.
"I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People," Loughner wrote. "Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen (sic)."
When asked if Loughner had any contact with Giffords in the past, Mueller said the alleged gunman attended a similar event three years ago.
The sheriff said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman. A third person intervened and tried to pull a clip away from Loughner as he attempted to reload, the sheriff said.
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