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Doctors in Tucson, Arizona are now talking about the day that Representative Gabrielle Giffords will be released from the hospital. One of the surgeons taking care of her said yesterday she could be transferred to a rehabilitation center within weeks, maybe even within days. And in an interview with ABC News, Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, described one sign of her recovery.
Mr. MARK KELLY (Astronaut): She's in the ICU, you know, gone through this traumatic injury, and she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage. And I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do that for somebody else. And she's looking me in the eye...
INSKEEP: That's astronaut Mark Kelly. We have more this morning from NPR's Jeff Brady.
JEFF BRADY: A miracle: That's what doctors have called Representative Giffords' recovery to this point. A bullet traveled all the way through the left side of her brain - doctors say from front to back.
Still just days after the shooting, doctors said she was able to follow simple commands. Then during a visit from fellow members of Congress last week, she opened her eyes. Doctors were almost giddy. On Saturday, a breathing tube was removed from Giffords' mouth, and Dr. Randall Friese said her husband, Mark Kelly, reported that she smiled.
Dr. RANDALL FRIESE: (University Medical Center): I wasn't there. Mark told me that he thought he may have seen a smile. We're all very optimistic. So we could be wrong. But we all want to see the best, and sometimes we see what we want to see. But if he says she's smiling, I buy it.
BRADY: On Saturday, surgeons performed a tracheotomy on Giffords, installing a new breathing tube in her throat and inserting a feeding tube. They also repaired damage to the top of her eye socket on the right side. Giffords was taken off a respirator, and her condition was upgraded from critical to serious. Dr. Michael Lamole delivered the good news.
Dr. MICHAEL LAMOLE (University Medical Center): I'm happy to say that within a few hours of the surgery, she was waking up. And through the weekend, she came back to the same baseline she had been before the surgery, that same level of interaction she's been having with us. And that's all very good.
BRADY: Lamole says Giffords' family is looking for a rehabilitation center now, and she could be moved out of the hospital within days to weeks. But then a reporter asked a question that has come up at nearly every briefing: How much movement does Giffords have on the right and left sides of her body?
Dr. LAMOLE: Again, I'm going to be real cagey with you here, like I have been in the past. The family really doesn't want to go into that detail at this time.
BRADY: While a lot of information has been released, it's clear that some is being held back. Gabrielle Giffords is a member of Congress and a public figure. Still, she enjoys the same rights to medical privacy that you and I do. That means every piece of news the doctors have delivered so far was approved by her family first.
Anita Allen is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Professor ANITA ALLEN (University of Pennsylvania Law School): No one believes that we're being fed false information. I think we're being fed information which is positive and hopeful and leaving open, you know, the possibility that she might well recover to a greater extent than some of our worst fears might suggest.
BRADY: Allen says the public should be grateful for the bits of information that have been released, because under current privacy laws, Giffords' family could have said nothing. And frankly, says Allen, under similar circumstances, that's what a lot of us would want.
Prof. ALLEN: It's very - it's a little embarrassing, a little awkward, a little sensitive to have every aspect of one's self revealed to other people when, you know, when one's in pain, when one doesn't look one's best, sound one's best.
BRADY: Allen says maybe Representative Giffords deserves a little private space, room to heal without all the gory details known to everyone. And, perhaps with that in mind, the University Medical Center doctors say they're not planning any more briefings until there's a significant change in Giffords' status.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Tucson.
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