TUESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The bullet that scored a path through Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' brain on Saturday will likely cause some permanent damage, but experts aren't sure at this point how extensive that damage might be.
However, doctors at University Medical Center in Tucson who operated on the Arizona congresswoman immediately after the shooting are already encouraged by her ability to follow simple instructions.
They said Monday that Giffords was responding to verbal commands by raising two fingers of her left hand and even managed to give a thumbs-up, the Associated Press reported.
They also said her brain remains swollen, but the pressure isn't increasing --- a good sign for her recovery, the AP said.
"That's why we are much more optimistic and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief after about the third day," said neurosurgeon Dr. Michael LeMole, who described Giffords' condition as stable.
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.
The 40-year-old 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 in Tucson, where the congresswoman was
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