Giffords improvement continuesPosted: Updated:
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit at University Medical Center in Tucson, but doctors on Monday say she is doing well, continuing to respond to commands, but is still unable to speak.
At a briefing Monday morning, the team of doctors say they think she can see because her eyes seem to follow people in the room, but they are not sure. And one doctor said husband Mark Kelly told him he thinks she smiles from time to time.
Doctors gave some detail on the two hour surgery on Saturday which removed the breathing tube that had been in her throat since her arrival at the hospital over a week earlier, and the tracheotomy which inserted a tube directly into her throat. That move should make it easier for her to breath. And doctors also inserted a feeding tube into her stomach for nutrition. Doctors call both procedures "normal" for brain-damaged patients.
For the first time, the doctors also said they did some repair work Saturday in her right eye socket to the cranium. The bullet sent fragments of bone into the area. They knew it had happened the day of the shooting and had performed a small procedure then which relieved pressure. The steps on Saturday inserted a mesh into the area for support.
Dr. Michael Lemole said it could be "days or weeks" before Representative Giffords is ready to leave the hospital and begin her rehabilitation work. He said it would likely be months before surgery is performed to repair her skull. But he remained optimistic about her recovery.
ABC News is quoting Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, as saying she gave him a 10-minute neck massage late last week. He told the network in an interview which will air Tuesday night that he tried to stop her, saying she was too weak, but she insisted. He termed it her normal need to help others.
UMC said there likely would not be another medical briefing until Rep. Giffords is prepared to leave UMC. But they said there would be daily medical updates posted on its website.
Also on Monday, a memorial service was held for Gabe Zimmerman. He was Director of Outreach for Giffords and he was among the six who died in the shooting on January 8.