TUCSON, Ariz. — Doctors treating U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Monday the congresswoman was responding to verbal commands by raising two fingers of her left hand and even managed to give a thumbs-up.
Giffords, 40, is in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Tucson's University Medical Center after she was shot through the head Saturday during a meet-and-greet with voters outside a supermarket. Two patients were discharged Sunday night. Eight others, including Giffords, remained hospitalized.
Recent CAT scans showed no further swelling in the brain, but doctors were guarded.
"We're not out of the woods yet," said her neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole. "That swelling can sometimes take three days or five days to maximize. But every day that goes by and we don't see an increase, we're slightly more optimistic."
After Saturday's operation to temporarily remove half of her skull, doctors over the past two days had Giffords removed from her sedation and then asked basic commands such as: "Show me two fingers."
"When she did that, we were having a party in there," said Dr. Peter Rhee, adding that Giffords has also managed to give doctors a thumbs-up and has been reaching for her breathing tube, even while sedated. "That's a purposeful movement. That's a great thing. She's always grabbing for the tube."
Giffords family is by her side and is receiving constant updates from doctors. On Monday, two well-known doctors with extensive experience in traumatic brain injury arrived in Tucson to help consult on Giffords' case.
Doctors had said the bullet traveled the length of the left side of the congresswoman's brain, entering the back of the skull and exiting the front. Her doctors have declined to speculate on what specific disabilities Giffords may face as her recovery progresses.
As for the other shooting victims who suffered injuries to the face, neck, stomach and other parts of the body, doctors said most will have a normal recovery. To ensure that they don't suffer post-traumatic stress, depression or other problems, teams of experts will guide them through the next phase.
AP National Writer Pauline Arrillaga contributed to this report.