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.
Once Giffords is settled in Houston -- where her astronaut husband lives -- the medical staff will evaluate Giffords' physical and mental abilities, Williams said.
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 said.
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.
Her survival has astounded experts, including 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.
Ninety percent of people with gunshot wounds to the head die, said Langer.
For more information on traumatic brain injury, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Steve Williams, M.D., chief and
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