Doctors say Representative Gabrielle Giffords might be able to leave her Tucson hospital within weeks or even days. Giffords, whose recovery that surgeons have called miraculous from a gunshot wound to the head, has a lengthy rehabilitation process ahead of her. “The family is looking at all their resources. They have the whole country available,” Michael Lemole Jr., Giffords’s neurosurgeon, said at a press conference Monday. Giffords is recovering from this weekend’s surgery to repair her right eye socket, which was damaged when the bullet entered the left side of her brain, causing pressure that pushed bone fragments into her right eye. Surgeons used titanium metal mesh to repair the socket. The optic nerve looks good, but doctors will have to wait until Giffords can tell them what she sees. After she was unhooked from a ventilator and upgraded from critical to serious condition this weekend, doctors placed a tube directly into her windpipe. Thus far, she hasn’t made an attempt to speak or write, but if she tries to form words, doctors will replace the tube.
Giffords’s cognitive ability is likewise still unclear. Over the past week, she’s responded to increasingly complex commands, including tracking movement with at least one eye. Although her doctors caution that it’s still speculative to infer too much at this stage, Giffords’s husband, Mark Kelly, who has kept a constant bedside vigil, says his wife has smiled at him, which suggests high-level awareness. In an interview with Diane Sawyer airing today, Kelly, a Navy pilot and space shuttle commander, relayed the story of Giffords spending ten minutes giving her husband a neck massage from her hospital bed:
Also miraculous: your icy heart not melting a little after hearing that.