Doctors: Giffords Able To Breathe On Her Own

As the injured from Saturday's shooting in Tucson continue their recovery, the community gathers to remember the six who died. President Obama is scheduled to be in Arizona for a memorial service Wednesday. At University Medical Center, there are six patients left in the hospital, and doctors reported good news on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' progress.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour in Tucson, where the community is gathering to remember the six people killed in Saturday's shooting rampage. This evening, there is a mass for all the victims at St. Odilia's Parish in Tucson. And President Obama arrives tomorrow for memorial service. Six people wounded in the shooting remain in the hospital at Tucson's University Medical Center. Today brought good news about the patient in the worst shape, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: Doctors have kept Giffords sedated so she can rest. They periodically wake her up to make sure her recovery is going well. Dr. Michael Lemole says he's still watching for any swelling in her brain that could lead to further damage. But he says nothing on that front has changed since yesterday.

Dr. MICHAEL LEMOLE (Neurosurgeon, Tucson University Medical Center): We've been able to back off on some of that sedation. And, in fact, she's able to generate her own breaths. She's breathing on her own. In fact, the only reason we keep that breathing tube in is to protect her airway so that she doesn't have complications like pneumonia.

BRADY: Giffords doctors still won't be specific on what kinds of disability she might face in the future. Yesterday, one of them did say there's a possibility her vision could be affected. Since the left side of her brain was injured, there will be concerns about her ability to speak and move her right side. Doctors also corrected something they said earlier - that Giffords was shot in the back of the head. They now believe she was shot in the front and the bullet exited her skull through the back on her left side.

At today's hospital briefing, several family members of those injured also spoke. Bill Hileman is the husband of Susan Hileman. She's the woman who brought nine-year-old Christina Green to see Representative Giffords last Saturday.

Mr. BILL HILEMAN: Most of what Suzy has shared with me about the specifics are on the edges of a morphine-induced haze.

BRADY: Hileman says at one point his wife asked about Christina and he had to deliver the horrible news that she was dead. Hileman says the girl's family has been very gracious but his wife will have difficulty living with what happened.

Mr. HILEMAN: I hear her in her semi-conscious ramblings screaming out, Christina, Christina, let's get out of here. Let's get out of here. And she keeps talking about the holding of hands and then the realization that she was on the ground and the bleeding was profuse. Her memory seems to end there.

BRADY: Hileman says his wife will recover from the three gunshot wounds she suffered, but it'll take a long time. He says a fractured hip is her biggest issue right now. The daughters of Mavy Stoddard also attended today's briefing. Mavy and her husband Dorwan were both at the Congress on Your Corner event on Saturday. While Mavy was released from the hospital yesterday and is doing well, Dorwan was killed. Penny Wilson says her mother believes Dorwan was a hero.

Ms. PENNY WILSON: Absolutely. She did feel that way. He heard the shots and covered my mom with his own body and protected her and saved her, yes.

BRADY: Wilson and her sister, Angela Robinson, relayed a touching story about how their mother came to marry their stepfather. The two were sixth grade sweethearts who went on to marry other people, then got back together later in life after their spouses died. At one point, the sisters were asked if they have any thoughts about the man accused of Saturday's shooting, 22-year-old Jared Loughner. Angela Robinson answered.

Ms. ROBINSON: We're not going to answer that at this time. God takes care of that.

BRADY: Robinson and her sister instead prefer to focus on the people who they said joined their stepfather as heroes that day, both at the scene at the shooting and those who've helped families like theirs since then.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tucson.

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