Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords smiled when she heard applause from bystanders as she was being moved to a Houston hospital to continue recovering from a gunshot to the head in the Tucson, Arizona, shooting rampage, a doctor said.
While traveling in an ambulance through Tucson, she reacted when she heard applause from people standing along the street, Tucson trauma surgeon Randall Friese, who accompanied Giffords on the flight, said at a news conference today in Houston.
“She responded very well to that” and was “smiling and in fact even tearing up a little bit,” Friese said.
Giffords, 40, was moved from Tucson’s University Medical Center, flying to Houston for admission to Texas Medical Center’s intensive-care unit. She is to be moved later to the facility’s rehabilitation hospital.
Doctors examined Giffords after her arrival in Houston.
“She looks spectacular,” said Dong Kim, neurosurgery chairman at the University of Texas Health Science Center. “She was alert, awake, calm, she looked comfortable.”
“I think she may be trying to form words if I had to guess,” Kim said.
Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden told House Democrats, “As devastating as Gabby’s injury is, it does not surprise me, believe it or not, that she’s making the progress she’s making.”
Biden, 68, who suffered two cranial aneurysms more than 20 years ago, said, “Attitude, determination is an incredible, incredible weapon in dealing with what you’re facing.”
‘Backbone Like a Ramrod’
“She has a backbone like a ramrod,” said Biden, who spoke to the lawmakers at their annual retreat in Cambridge, Maryland.
In Houston, trauma surgeon John Holcomb said Giffords would begin rehabilitation and physical therapy today. He said she will remain in the intensive-care unit for now because a drain has been inserted to remove “a little fluid collection” in her brain.
“She’s doing great,” Holcomb said. “She’s really done very well with this transfer.”
Giffords might remain a patient at the rehabilitation facility for a few weeks or up to six months, Carl E. Josehart, chief executive officer at the Houston center, told reporters yesterday. Josehart said the average length of stay for patients, including those with all types of injuries, is 28 days.
Giffords’s husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, has a home in Houston, where he lives while training as a space shuttle commander.
Her alleged assailant, Jared Lee Loughner, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords.
Loughner, 22, in an initial three-count indictment, is accused of attempted assassination of a member of Congress and attempted murder of two federal employees, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix.
The suspect was tackled by bystanders after he allegedly opened fire at a community meeting held by Giffords outside a supermarket in Tucson. The six killed included U.S. District Judge John Roll, as well as one of Giffords’s aides and a 9-year-old girl. Two members of Giffords’s staff were among the wounded.
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