Gabrielle Giffords: Docs Say Progress Amazing, Though Shuttle Launch Trip No Done Deal

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John Nova Lomax
The doctors face the press for an upbeat update
U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords has her personality back, is speaking in full sentences and has made continuous neurological improvement, her team of TIRR Memorial Hermann doctors said at a news conference at the Texas Medical Center this morning.

Dr. Imoigele Aisiku removed her trach tube recently, a milestone he characterized as a "fist-pump moment" for both Giffords and himself. Dr. Dong Kim used phrases like "spectacularly well," "quite remarkable and better than we expected" and "leaps and bounds" to describe the progress of the Arizonan's recovery. Dr. Gerard Francisco said he is constantly having to "reimagine, readjust and rethink" the goals he sets for Giffords, as she passes more and more milestones each week.

A big one is coming up. Giffords's husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, has told her that he would like for her to attend his space shuttle launch next month. While it is not a done deal, Giffords's doctors do believe that if her present level of progress continues, she will be able to go.

If so, she will be there minus a portion of her skull. Doctors removed part of Giffords's skull after the shooting to relieve pressure on her injured brain, and this morning Dr. Kim said that they were looking at reattaching it in May. He said that there was "no rush"; such procedures normally took place three to four months after the incidents that caused their necessities. If she is able to attend the launch, she will wear a special helmet that covers her head tightly.

Dr. Kim said Giffords's long-term memory is completely intact. While she doesn't recall the shooting at all, Kim said that was normal, and said that she also remembers everything that happens day-to-day. Her vision is undamaged, he added. Asked what Giffords might have irrevocably lost to Jared Loughner's bullets, Kim said it was too early to tell.

But the overall mood of the conference was very upbeat. The team was very happy to be able to say that Giffords's personality had returned, and no longer was she in and out of being herself. "It's now constant," said Dr. Francisco. "And that's a wonderful thing."

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