THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords began intensive rehabilitation therapy in Houston Thursday, another stunning step forward for the lawmaker who was shot in the brain earlier this month.
The therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital could last several months. As a first move, to help her talk, doctors planned to insert a valve into her breathing tube, the Associated Press reported.
Doctors, however, have not confirmed that Giffords is actually able to speak. "We can say that her speech function, along with everything else, is improving," neurosurgeon Dr. Dong Kim told the AP, but he would not elaborate.
Giffords was transferred to TIRR Wednesday from a nearby hospital, where she was in intensive care because of a buildup of fluid in her brain. But late Wednesday, doctors announced that, prior to her transfer, they had removed the catheter used to drain the fluid, the AP reported.
The congresswoman has been making surprisingly strong progress since she was shot in the head Jan. 8. Before being cleared for rehabilitation in Houston, she was hospitalized at University Medical Center in Tucson where she scrolled through an iPad, identified different colored objects and moved her lips. Still, they weren't sure if she was mouthing words, and they didn't know how well she can see, the AP reported.
The encouraging medical updates out of Tucson indicated that Giffords has a high level of motor and emotional function, experts say.
"The fact that she is able to communicate, that she is able to stand and walk, the fact that she is moving both hands is a good thing," said Dr. Kester Nedd, an associate professor of neurology and director of neuro-rehabilitation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"Motor function is a very strong predictor of outcome," he said. In addition, her ability to express emotion and interpret hum
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