In yet another sign of significant recovery during a remarkable week, the gravely wounded US Representative Gabrielle Giffords has been upgraded from critical to serious condition after a procedure to remove her from a ventilator was successful.
Doctors have been positive, and at time almost giddy, in describing her progress since she was shot point blank in the head on January 8.
Ms Giffords responded from the moment she arrived at the emergency room, at first just squeezing a doctor’s hand. Then she raised two fingers. She opened her unbandaged eye shortly after President Barack Obama’s bedside visit on Wednesday.
Then, more milestones – which doctors said were all indicative of higher cognitive function – were achieved, all with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, at her side. Mr Kelly asked her to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him. She did more than that. She slowly raised her left arm. By the end of the week, she had moved her legs and arms.
At the hospital, more than 100 people were gathered amid the sea of get-well balloons and cards when the University of Arizona put out a statement upgrading her condition.
Doctors decided to upgrade her condition because the tracheotomy done a day earlier was uneventful, hospital spokeswoman Katie Riley said.
A feeding tube was also put in on Saturday, and doctors speculated that they might soon know if she could speak.
Few people survive a bullet to the brain – just 10% – and some end up in a vegetative state.
It is even more rare for people with gunshot wounds to the head to regain all of their abilities, and doctors have cautioned that the full extent of Ms Giffords’ recovery remains uncertain.
Ms Giffords and 18 others were shot when a gunman opened fire at a meet-and-greet she was hosting outside a supermarket in her own hometown. Six people died.