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Congresswoman Giffords' condition remains stable

January 10, 2011|By Thomas H. Maugh II | Los Angeles Times

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' condition essentially remained unchanged overnight Sunday, doctors at Tucson's University Medical Center said in a Monday morning news conference.

"No change is good, and we have no change," said Dr. Michael Lemole, one of the trauma neurosurgeons who cared for her following the Saturday shooting. "She is still following basic commands, and her CAT scans are showing no progression of swelling. Every day that goes by, we are slightly more optimistic."

Lemole said swelling of the brain typically peaks on the third day following an injury, which would be Tuesday. After that, "we can breathe a collective sigh of relief." Surgeons removed most of the left side of her skull on Saturday to prevent swelling from compressing her brain and cutting off the flow of blood to her brain stem, which would almost certainly be fatal.

 The 9-mm bullet fired at her Saturday entered the back of her skull and exited through the front, passing only through the left hemisphere and, fortunately, missing the critical area connecting the two hemispheres of the brain. Had it struck that juncture, it would have been instantly fatal or, at the very least, severely disabling, such as the wound that affected President Reagan's press secretary James Brady during the attempt on Reagan's life.

But the left hemisphere controls speech functions and the movement of the right side of the body and physicians have not been able to assess how badly those functions have been damaged. Giffords is intubated, and thus unable to speak. The team refused to release any details about her condition, specifically which side of her body she is able to move in response to commands. "At this point, we can't measure psychologic function, nor would we try," Lemole added.

Dr. Peter Rhee, another member of the trauma team that cared for Giffords, said that there are still eight patients from the shooting in the hospital. Two, including Giffords, are in intensive care, one listed in critical condition and one in serious. The remaining six are in regular hospital wards and are listed in good and fair conditions.

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