Giffords Continues 'Miraculous' Recovery

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) continues to make what her neurosurgeon calls a "miraculous" recovery after being shot in the head nine days ago. Doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson gave an update on her condition while the city celebrated Martin Luther King Day.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.

TED ROBBINS: Congresswoman Giffords underwent two surgeries over the weekend: one to place a tracheal tube, to keep her lungs and airway clear; the other to remove bone chips, which were putting pressure on her eye. No complications from either procedure - just remarkable progress. One of her doctors confirmed that Giffords reached out and gave her husband, Mark Kelly, a neck rub. It's another sign, said Dr. Michael Lemole, that higher cognitive levels of function are at least somehow preserved.

As NPR's Ted Robbins reports, this year, the holiday took on added significance.

TED ROBBINS: Congresswoman Giffords underwent two surgeries over the weekend. One to place a tracheal tube to keep her lungs and airway clear, the other to remove bone chips which were putting pressure on her eye. No complications from either procedure, just remarkable progress. One of her doctors confirmed that Giffords reached out and gave her husband, Mark Kelly, a neck rub. It's another sign, said Dr. Michael Lemole, that higher cognitive levels of function are at least somehow preserved.

In an interview with ABC, Mark Kelly said giving him a massage showed her -wifes health is improving, and that her spirit is strong. He said he let it happen because it was something she needed to do.

Dr. Randall Friese was asked if the congresswoman is speaking.

Dr. RANDALL FRIESE (Trauma Surgeon, University Medical Center): The tracheostomy that we have in place now does not allow her to get air past her vocal cords. She cannot vocalize, but she certainly could mouth words or something like that, when she's ready to do that.

ROBBINS: Dr. Lemole said that if things continue the way theyve been going, it could be a matter of days or weeks before Giffords leaves the hospital for a long-term rehabilitation facility. The location hasnt been determined yet.

Dr. MICHAEL LEMOLE (Chief of Neurosurgery, University Medical Center): Well, the family is looking at all their resources. They have the entire country available. It has to be in a place that is not only top-notch, in terms of the ability to render care and rehabilitation, but also proximity to family is very important.

(Soundbite of crowd singing, This Little Light of Mine)

ROBBINS: Just a few blocks from the hospital, several hundred people gathered this morning to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Giffords colleague, Arizona Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva, said:

Representative RAUL GRIJALVA (Democrat, Arizona): There's a backdrop to this celebration today. And that backdrop is what happened here in Tucson, with the tragedy that we're all dealing with. And it's an appropriate time to remind ourselves of what Dr. King meant, said and lived.

ROBBINS: Tucson City councilman Richard Fimbres gave the invocation.

Mr. RICHARD FIMBRES (City Councilman, Tucson): Please, let us pray for the six that have fallen. And let's pray for the folks that are struggling in the hospital still, to get healed; and let's pray for their families. But let's also pray for this city of Tucson and for this state, that we come together as one family, and we continue to work together in the spirit of true Arizonans.

ROBBINS: Then the crowd marched to a park a few miles away. People carried signs saying: Get Well Gabby, and Peace, and May Tucson Be the Birthplace of the Civil Discourse Movement.

Doris Ford said she was glad to see such a range of ages in the crowd.

Ms. DORIS FORD: I love the fact that you still see neighbors bringing their children to an event like this - 'cause they could have been scared off.

ROBBINS: She said she was here to accent the positive.

Ms. FORD: I am out here to honor the people - the heroes of Tucson - and all the goodness in the world.

ROBBINS: With Giffords' condition upgraded over the weekend from critical to serious, the entire crowd seemed hopeful.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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