Dramatic improvement in Giffords recovery

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson this morning confirmed what President Barack Obama told the world last night that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has now opened her eyes.

It happened Wednesday night just after the President and First Lady had left her room after spending nine minutes with her and husband Mark Kelly.  Friends of Giffords from Congress were in the room when it happened.

But the more important news provided by Dr. Peter Rhee and Dr. Michael Lemole is that Giffords is utilizing both sides of her body.  They say they have her sitting up on the side of the bed and she is following commands to move her legs and arms.  They also said she is keeping both eyes open for ten to fifteen minutes.  In a brain injury, the ability to utilize both sides of the body is huge.

Doctors say she still does have a breathing tube down her throat, but she is, "doing all the work on her own," as far as breathing.  They won't know if she is able to speak until the tube is removed.  They refused to specify a time when that would happen.

Fox 11 News Reporter Brian Roberts asked the doctors reaction to the audience at the McKale Center event Wednesday night.  They both were greeted with cheers, shouts and a standing ovation.  Dr. Rhee called it "crazy".  Dr. Lamone said it was "humbling".  Dr. Lamone also said the treatment they have provided to Representative Giffords is the same they would provide to anyone else in the same situation.

President Obama, during his speech at McKale Wednesday night, was the first to reveal Giffords had opened his eyes.  He said he did that with the permission of Mark Kelly.

Dr. Malone told reporters Thursday that he was very happy that the President was able to deliver that news to the world.  Both doctors said they had noticed "flickering" of the eyes before, but they had not opened.  Dr. Malone said victims of brain injuries frequently will react to familiar sounds around them.  He noted the family had been by her side since Saturday.  He speculated that the "unexpected" sound of friends from Congress that she didn't know would be there prompted the eyes to open.

The first funeral of victims of the Saturday shooting will be held in Tucson on Thursday.  The family of Christina Taylor Green, 9, will hold  her services at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on Tucson's northwest side at 1p.m.

Services for Federal District Judge John Roll will be held at the same church tomorrow at 10 a.m.