'Miraculous' Is Still Word To Use About Giffords' Condition, Doctor Says

January 17, 2011

Mark Memmott

Asked just moments ago if he still thinks Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' progress since being shot in the head on Jan. 8 has been "miraculous," Dr. G. Michael Lemole, section chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tucson just told reporters:

"No change. ... That word still holds very well."

An important next step in her case -- gauging her ability to speak -- hasn't yet been taken. Dr. Randy Friese, one of the surgeons who performed a tracheotomy on the Democratic congresswoman over the weekend, said because of that procedure she cannot "get air past her vocal cords."

Still, if Giffords does wish to speak, she "certainly could mouth words," Friese added.

In another bit of good news about Giffords, Lemole was asked about word from her husband, Mark Kelly, that she has been able to reach out and give him a neck rub. That, "does imply that she is recognizing [Kelly]," Lemole said, "and interacting in an old familiar way with him." And that is another sign that "higher cognitive levels of function are at least somehow, somewhat preserved."

Giffords and 18 other people were shot in the rampage. Six of the victims died.

(As we said Friday, The Two-Way is "off" today -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- but we wanted to pop in for this update because of the high interest in this story.) Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.