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Doctors Have High Hopes for Giffords’ Recovery

January 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords showed signs of a promising recovery Tuesday. Gwen Ifill has the latest on the lawmaker's condition and the investigation into the Arizona shooting.

GWEN IFILL: There were more indications of progress today in the recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.The Arizona Democrat was holding her own, despite being critically wounded in the Tucson shootings.

Three days after she was shot in the head, the latest medical report on Congresswoman Giffords offered new reason to hope.At University Medical Center, a C.T. scan early today showed no increase in brain swelling.

And Giffords’ neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, reported other promising signs.

DR. G. MICHAEL LEMOLE JR., chief of neurosurgery, University Medical Center:We have been able to back off on some of that sedation.And, in fact, she’s able to generate her own breaths.She’s breathing on her own.In fact, the only reason we keep that breathing tube in is to protect her airway, so she that doesn’t have complications like pneumonia.

GWEN IFILL: Lemole voiced guarded optimism, but he said, again, it’s a long road back.

DR. G. MICHAEL LEMOLE JR.: It’s week to week, month to month.And I know everyone wants to hear new results every day, but as long as we don’t backslide and as long as she holds her own, that’s good.That keeps us hopeful.But we have to play this really according to her timeline, not ours.

GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, the accused gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was being held without bail in Phoenix after appearing in federal court there on Monday.His parents remain secluded in their Tucson home and made no statement.

But a neighbor was allowed inside and spoke to Loughner’s mother and father.

WAYNE SMITH, neighbor of Loughners:They’re home.


WAYNE SMITH: She’s in bed, and she’s just broke-down, this nervous wreck.And he’s in there crying, just walking around.He can’t get out three words without crying.And not only is he sad for his son.He is devastated over the people that was involved.

GWEN IFILL: Loughner is already facing federal charges in the attack on Giffords and the killings of an aide and a federal judge.State charges are still pending in the shootings that also killed four others and wounded 13, in addition to Giffords.

In Washington today, Attorney General Eric Holder called it an unspeakable tragedy and a reminder.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. attorney general:Without question, threats against public officials, whatever form they take, continue to be cause for concern and vigilance.But I do not believe that these threats are as strong as the forces working for tolerance and for peace.

GWEN IFILL: The Senate sergeant at arms, Terrance Gainer, noted today that threats to members of the Senate have been increasing.


TERRANCE GAINER, U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms:Mostly rather bizarre, the ones that — from people who have demonstrated erratic behavior.They cover a variety of areas.We investigate them closely with the FBI.There’s been a number of arrests on those.

GWEN IFILL: Members of Congress will attend a security briefing tomorrow.But, for now, the Tucson victims remain the focus.Many signed a book of condolences.

The House also planned to vote on a resolution introduced by Speaker John Boehner to honor those killed and wounded.Back in Tucson, a remembrance mass will be held this evening.And, tomorrow, President Obama plans to attend a larger memorial service in the city.

Late today, the family of Jared Loughner did release a statement, which said in part: “We don’t understand why this happened.It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday.We are so very sorry.”