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Rep. Giffords Regains Ability To Speak

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Rep. Giffords Regains Ability To Speak

Politics

Rep. Giffords Regains Ability To Speak

Rep. Giffords Regains Ability To Speak

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who's been recovering at a facility in Houston after being shot in the head last month, is speaking. Meanwhile, the investigation into the attack that killed six people and wounded 13 has reached a conclusion.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

There is more encouraging news about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Her spokesman says she is not only speaking, but speaking more and more, as he put it. Giffords is recovering in Houston in a rehab facility. Meanwhile, the investigation into the attack that killed six people and wounded 13 has reached a conclusion. NPR's Ted Robbins is with us to talk more about this. And he's in Tucson.

Ted, let's start with Gabrielle Giffords' condition. She's talking.

TED ROBBINS: Right. And the reason that this announcement's so important is, I mean, obviously it shows she can speak after being shot in the forehead, which is pretty amazing in itself. And on Monday she asked for toast for breakfast. Sounds like a small thing, but it was a fitting request and it was at an appropriate time. It's a really good sign, because people with left-side brain damage like she has can develop something called aphasia, which is difficulty producing or comprehending speech.

She, of course, has a tracheostomy tube in her windpipe still, so speaking is especially tough. Her doctors say this portion of her rehabilitation, unlike her time in intensive care here in Tucson, they say now it's more like a marathon.

And her communications director, C.J. Karamargin, told me that all this progress he thinks is the result of really two things. First, her therapists are really pushing her hard, every day, to work.

Mr. C.J. KARAMARGIN (Communications director, Gabrielle Giffords): And we know that she is demonstrating her own tenacity and determination, and she's pushing herself. So this combination of things, I think, has allowed us to reach this milestone.

ROBBINS: It's still going to be months before her medical team knows the full extent of any disabilities. And if she fully recovers, that could even take years.

MONTAGNE: Turning to the investigation. Yesterday, the FBI and Pima County Sheriff's Department said they've wrapped things up. Where do things go from here?

ROBBINS: The FBI says that everything's been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution - hundreds of interviews with witnesses, physical evidence taken from the suspect, Jared Loughner, from his house, from his computer.

Now, so far he's only been charged with the attempted murders of Giffords and two of her staff members. Now, a grand jury can examine all that evidence and also charge Loughner with the murders of a staff member, Gabe Zimmerman, and federal judge John Roll. State charges on the other four murders will have to come later.

Investigators have said that they want to get a sample of Loughner's handwriting so they can compare it with notes found in a safe. They have the handwritten words "my assassination" and "Giffords" and a few other things on them.

MONTAGNE: And while all of this is going on, of course, Giffords is still a member of Congress. And I understand you dropped by her office there in Tucson yesterday.

ROBBINS: Yeah. And, you know, how does a congressional office operate without the member of Congress? And so far, staff says, so good. There is, of course, no one to introduce bills or vote on them, but there are 900 constituent cases open that the staff is working on. They say just last week they called the State Department to get a young woman from Arizona who's disabled out of Cairo during the demonstrations there.

The staff knows pretty well what Giffords' priorities are, like making sure the 114 miles of her district that's on the Mexican border continue to get attention from Washington, especially now that there's a new Congress. Of course, sadly there are fewer people in the office right now. One person was killed - Gabe Zimmerman - and two others are still recovering from injuries.

But there is certainly support from other congressional offices, they say. And there was a cake in the office when I was there, along with a lot of signs of love and support.

MONTAGNE: Ted, thanks very much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ted Robbins speaking to us from Tucson.

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Here's Why Rep. Giffords' Request For Toast Is 'A Really Good Sign'

Word from Politico and other news outlets that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has begun to speak, which we posted about yesterday, is getting lots of attention today. Everyone who has been watching for good news about the congresswoman's recovery from a gunshot wound to her head seems to be captivated by this latest development.

March, 2010 file photo of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). i

March, 2010 file photo of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). AP hide caption

toggle caption AP
March, 2010 file photo of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

March, 2010 file photo of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

AP

There isn't a lot of information yet about exactly what she's been able to say, other than that on Monday she asked for toast with her breakfast.

But even that simple request, NPR's Ted Robbins explained on Morning Edition, is potentially a big deal when a patient has the kind of severe head injury Giffords (D-AZ) suffered when a gunman attacked her and others on Jan. 8 in Tucson.

Her request for toast, Ted said, "sounds like a small thing, but it was a fitting request and it was at an appropriate time. That's a really good sign because people with left-side brain damage like she has can develop something called aphasia, which is difficulty producing or comprehending speech."

Here's that part of Ted's conversation with ME host Renee Montagne:

NPR's Ted Robbins on Giffords' progress

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And here's their entire discussion, which includes an update on the investigation of the attack, which left six people dead and 13 others (including Giffords) re covering from gunshot wounds:

Renee Montagne and Ted Robbins

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The Arizona Republic adds this morning that:

"The latest developments are encouraging for Giffords but not necessarily that unusual, said Dr. Christina Kwasnica, director of the neurorehabilitation program at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

" 'It's always a very good sign once patients are able to eat and, definitely based on her injury, it's a good sign that she's able to talk,' said Kwasnica, who was speaking generally and does not have any specific insight into Giffords' treatment. 'Those are signs that she is moving forward. It's a slow process, but these first types of changes usually occur within a month, six weeks, maybe up to eight weeks.' "

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