Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The amazing recovery of Gabrielle Giffords

We've been focusing a great deal on the shooting and on what was behind it, that is, the larger socio-political context, but, lest we forget, the most amazing part of the story is happening at a hospital in Tuscon:

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is able to breathe on her own, doctors said Tuesday.

Giffords remains on a ventilator to help her recovery, said neurosurgeon G. Michael Lemole Jr.

Giffords now has a "101 percent chance" of surviving Saturday's shot to the head, said trauma surgeon Peter Rhee.

"She will not die—she does not have that permission from me," he said.

Monday, Rhee said the congresswoman's chances of survival were 100 percent.

Giffords remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, they said.

"It's going to happen on her timeline, not ours," Lemole said.

"She has no right to look as good as she does, but we all have to be patient," said Lemole, noting that recovery from a shot through the brain can take a long time.

"She's on her own schedule," he said. "It's a week to week, month to month" healing process."

Doctors have been able to "back off" the sedation the congresswoman is receiving, Lemole said.

Giffords is responding to commands by moving on both sides of her body, Rhee said.

Some tests involve testing responses to pain, he said.

"We do a test called a sternal rub," he said, by pushing down hard on the breastbone to cause a response.

"We say, 'Gabby, show me your thumb' and push down," he said.

She now responds to the request by giving a thumbs up to avoid the push, he said. "She's doing it on her own."

Truly amazing. And wonderful news.

Of course, Giffords is receiving excellent medical care, including from two military doctors (who were brought in because her husband, an astronaut, is in the Navy.

All Americans should have access to such care, and the vote Giffords cast for health-care reform helped last year helped move the country towards a fairer and more just system for all. Consider what she herself wrote in August 2009:

We are as great nation. We deserve the best health care in the world. How we get it is the real question.

We need reform that puts patients first. It is not right and not fair that insurance companies can deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or impose lifetime limits on service.

I support reform that allows Americans to keep their current health care program, keep their doctors and keep their hospitals.

I support reform that creates competition through a strong public option that lowers everyone's costs and competes with private insurers.

I support reform that allows Arizonans who lose their jobs to afford insurance so they can get back on their feet without fear of getting sick without medical care.

I support reform that will slow the growth of health care costs and does not impose new taxes or burdens on our nation's most valuable economic contributors, small businesses.

Last month, this nation observed the 40th anniversary of our arrival on the moon – one of the most awesome accomplishments in the history of mankind. Now our generation has our own opportunity to make history.

A nation that can leave footprints on another celestial body is up to this challenge.

Providing Americans with health care that gives them lifetime security and peace of mind must be America's next great accomplishment.

And there is still work to be done -- at the moment, to reject Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, we must remember that Giffords wasn't the only victim of Saturday's shooting. Six people died and 14 others, including Giffords, were wounded -- six of the wounded are still at University Medical Center, and, two, including Giffords, are still in critical condition.

We wish them all the best health care available. And we wish them all well.

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  • It's worth noting that James Brady, who was similarly shot through the head during the Reagan assassination attempt, still is alive and the anniversary of that incident will mark 30 years at the end of March.

    By Blogger Edward Copeland, at 8:16 PM  

  • One hopes that Giffords's recovery continues and that she can remain a public figure and advocate the way Brady has.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 6:10 PM  

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