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Rep. Giffords Continues to Improve
Date:1/17/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues her remarkable recovery after she was gravely wounded by an assassin's bullet to her brain nine days ago: On Sunday, her doctors upgraded her condition from critical to serious.

Giffords underwent surgery Saturday to replace a breathing tube that had been in place since she was shot in the attack in Tucson that left six people dead.

The 40-year-old Giffords had been breathing on her own, but the breathing tube had been left in place as a precaution. In its place, surgeons inserted a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe, protecting her airway and allowing her to be disconnected from a ventilator, according to officials at University Medical Center in Tucson, where Giffords is being treated.

Doctors also inserted a feeding tube. Both procedures, according to the hospital, are common in people hospitalized with brain injuries.

The hospital issued a statement saying that Giffords' "recovery continues as planned."

Her doctors said earlier that, once the breathing tube was removed, they would be able to assess whether she could speak.

On Friday, doctors said Giffords was "continuing to make all the right moves in all the right directions" toward recovery. The Wall Street Journal reported that she has defied the odds and continues to show improved function day by day.

"She is beginning to carry out more complex sequences [of movement] in response to our commands, and even spontaneously," said Dr. Michael Lemole Jr., neurosurgery chief at University Medical Center. "We couldn't have hoped for any better improvement than we're seeing now."

Giffords' doctors said she has been opening her eyes more often since she first did so Wednesday. That was the day she also touched the wedding ring worn by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, after being asked by him to do so.

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