JUDY WOODRUFF: And, for that, I'm joined in Tucson by Dr. Peter Rhee. He's the chief of trauma and emergency surgery at University Medical Center. He's a member of the team that has been treating the congresswoman.
Dr. Rhee, thank you for talking with us.
DR. PETER RHEE, medical director, University Medical Center Trauma Center: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a little more than two days now. Tell us how she's doing.
DR. PETER RHEE: So far, things are going well. We have not taken any steps backwards. There have been no complications. So far, you know, we're happy with where we are. But we have to give her some time to see how she's going to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Can you be any more specific about the positive signs you're seeing and why they give you hope?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, this is a time period when the brain will go through its healing phase.
And, while I'm optimistic in many ways, because, one, the brain's skull is not on the on top of this injured brain. So, if it needs to grow and get a little bigger during this time period, it has the room to do so. So, I'm not as worried from that point of view. However, there's still natural swelling that is going to go on to the brain cells.
And if they occur, it can occur on these days, anywhere from the first day all the way to the third, fourth, fifth day. And, during that time period, a person can actually go backwards. And their neurological status can actually get a little worse.
And that has not occurred. So I'm very happy. And she's at the point that she was before, if not a little better. All of her other conditions, her blood sugar and her laboratories and her blood level and so on, they are exactly where we want it to be.
So, overall, we're very happy with this. And we just want to give her some time and let the brain heal. At this point, it's actually going to be very slow, slow progress.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You said earlier today that she's responding to commands. Is that on both sides of her body?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, at this point, we don't want to be too specific with this, because I think a lot of people are going to really cling on to every word that we make.
And we don't want to give false hope at this point. But, right now, I can just say that it's about the same as it was yesterday. And so we're very optimistic about the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to take you back to when she was brought to the hospital, when you first saw her on Saturday. You have seen a lot of trauma in your experience. We know you have been in the battlefield. What did you when you first saw her, what was your take?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, I was very happy and optimistic in the fact that, when she came to us, she was alive and she was having some response to our commands and requests, so that I knew that her brain was alive.
So, at that point, if they come to me like that, then I know I can, you know, save her life and be and our team is going to do everything that we need to. And I know that she wasn't at least going to die. So, that's what I was happy about at this stage.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Can you show us, Dr. Rhee by pointing to your own head where the bullet entered and where it exited?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, I would love to do that, but, right now, I have been requested not to, because I think the crime scene is not fully investigated yet. And, also, the family has asked that we not be too graphic about that.
So, it's just suffice to say that, you know, it was a bad head injury that went through her brain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And the left side of her head. And it's our understanding that it's better that it's just on one side.
DR. PETER RHEE: That's right. If it goes on both sides, the chance of you dying from that is very, very high. It's almost 100 percent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Rhee, at this stage, what are you and the other physicians who are working with her most concerned about?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, at this stage, the concern is again about the swelling. And we're going to just basically not try to disturb her too much over the next few days.
But, if she continues to make progress like she's doing now, we're very optimistic and hope that the next point that we will be able to overcome is the point I can get her off the breathing machine. And if everything goes well, maybe two, three, four days from now, that will happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I know you don't want to predict the future, but you did use the word slow a few minutes ago. What is the range of recovery for something like this?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, it's hard to say. I have seen people wake up. Just, all of a sudden, in one minute, just they will open their eyes and start you know, it's like their computer just booted right back up. And that has occurred. So, that's not too uncommon as well.
But when you have injuries to the head and to the brain, it's just so unpredictable as to when that is going to occur. So, at this point, if she didn't do anything for a while, meaning a couple of weeks, that's still not uncommon. That doesn't mean I'm going to lose any hope. If she doesn't to anything for a very long period of time, for about six months or so, that still doesn't mean that she can't recover.
So, the brain is very unpredictable at this time period.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Dr. Rhee, just a word about the others who are still in the hospital. How are they doing? What's their prognosis?
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, thanks for asking, because I think, a lot of times, we forget that there were many people injured that day.
And I would like it's fortunate that I can say that everybody is doing well. No one is in danger of actually losing their lives at this time period. But the trauma center's resources are in full action at this point. And we're concentrating on not just keeping them alive or putting their body parts back together, but working on the patients as a whole, as a human being, and making sure that they can actually go back to their life the way they were.
There are still some patients that's going to require multiple surgeries to finish the work. And then there are other people who are going to be ready to go home fairly soon. And then there's others that are going to need some help as far as their cognitive rehabilitation or the fact that they may go through some post-traumatic distress disorders.
And we have to give them all the social services that they need with psychiatry, psychologists and other type of resources like that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I know, Dr. Rhee, you said earlier today this has taken a toll, not just, of course, on the families, the individuals affected, but on the caregivers there at the hospital, the staff, the doctors, the nurses, and everyone.
So, we want to all be mindful of that at this time. And thank you very much for talking with us.
DR. PETER RHEE: Well, thank you very much. Bye-bye. <-->