Giffords' doctors said Monday that she was able to follow simple instructions, and responded to verbal commands by raising two fingers of her left hand and even managed to give a thumbs-up, the AP reported. They also said her brain remained swollen, but the pressure wasn't increasing --- a good sign for her recovery.
By Tuesday, the doctors said Giffords could raise both of her arms.
Still, experts said Giffords likely suffered some permanent damage, but it's not yet clear how extensive that damage might be.
Dr. David Langer, director of cerebrovascular research at the Cushing Neuroscience Institutes, part of North Shore/Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Great Neck, N.Y., said: "She's probably going to survive in all likelihood, but months or even a year from now we may not know what her ultimate prognosis will be."
"She'll likely have a deficit in the near term, but we don't know if she'll end up in a wheelchair like James Brady [President Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was injured by a bullet during a 1981 assassination attempt on the president] or a functioning Congresswoman. We can't know," added Langer, who was not involved with Giffords' care.
Giffords was gravely injured, 13 others were wounded, and six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed when a 22-year-old man, Jared Loughner, pulled out a semiautomatic Glock pistol in front of a Safeway supermarket on Saturday in Tucson, where Giffords was meeting constituents. A Democrat, she was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.
The fact that Giffords is alive is a bit of a miracle.
According to Langer, 90 percent of people with gunshot wounds to the head die.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on traumatic brain injury.
SOURCES: David Langer, M.D., director, cerebrovascul
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