Giffords was one of 18 people shot by a gunman outside a Tucson supermarket, where the 40-year-old, three-term lawmaker had been meeting with constituents. On Monday, the suspect in the shootings, Jared Loughner, 22, of Tucson, pleaded not guilty to federal charges of attempting to kill Giffords and trying to kill two of her aides, the AP reported.
TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston is one of the best rehabilitation centers in the country, said Dr. Steve Williams, chief and chairman of the department of rehabilitation medicine at Boston Medical Center and professor and chairman of rehabilitation medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
Nedd noted that Giffords is already starting at a very high level of functioning. "She was blessed," he said. "A lot of the force of the bullet that struck her was dissipated by the skull and the bullet exiting," he said. Also the injury was not to the deep brain, he added.
One of the first steps in rehabilitation is to help patients regain the ability to take care of themselves. "This is called activities of daily living," Nedd explained.
Giffords' rehabilitation will most likely center on her speaking ability and the processes of thinking, Williams said. She may be given medications, such as Ritalin, to stimulate the brain, he said.
One rehab goal is to retrain the brain to take over functions that may have been lost or damaged by trauma, experts said. This is done through repetition, Nedd said. "The brain has the ability to shift function from one part of the brain to another," he said.
Giffords will probably remain at TIRR Memorial Hermann for a month or two, then continue rehabilitation on an outpatient basis, perhaps for a year or more, Williams said.
Giffords, a Democrat, was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.
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