Monday, April 25, 2011

In a "back from the abyss" story, Rep. Gabby Giffords's recovery from her shooting appears to be going well


Note that this AP video clip, which says doctors have cleared Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to attend husband Mark Kelly's space-shuttle launch this week at Cape Canaveral, and she will do so, sourcing an interview Kelly gave CBS's Katie Couric scheduled for broadcast this evening, goes beyond the AP report from Phoenix it accompanies on (referenced below), which says, "Though doctors have not yet approved the trip to Cape Canaveral for the shuttle launch, they said it should be safe."

"Kelly will phone Giffords during the mission, but he expects the conversations to be different than on his last flight. On 'one of my last calls to her from space, she was walking from the Capitol back over to Rayburn [House Office Building] with Miles O’Brien from CNN.' Now, he will ask her 'how things are going and how she’s doing and what’s her day like,' he said."
-- from an AP dispatch last night, "Report: Giffords standing, walking on her own," based on a report in the Arizona Republic

by Ken

It's one of those stories that doesn't really have a wider significance and yet seems important, maybe as a "back from the abyss" tale, in which victims of crushing blows of circumstance to "come back," through a combination of personal determination, a lot of team commmitment and competence, and a lot of luck.

An obvious instance that pops to mind is the rescue of the Chilean miners last October, which because of the gruelingly protracted time frame required for the extraction stretched out of such an agonizing period, only to be brought off -- over a still-agonizingly extended period -- with such dazzling success. It's true that mine disasters all over the world, happening in all-too-large part because of the naked, inhuman greed of the owners, continued and continue to claim lives. And I'm all in favor of paying a lot more attention to the preventability of those disasters. But the very fact that in such cases the deck is so heavily stacked against rescue seemed to me to make the human triumph of this one so remarkable.

Same thing with the memory of that awful day in Tucson when that gun-toting maniac killed six people and wounded 13, including Representative Giffords, shaking the country in a way that not many things do. By and large, it seems to me, we "solved" that problem the way we do with so many problems that really have no ready solution: We thought about other stuff.

But see if this doesn't bring it back, from the AP Phoenix dispatch:
There were hopeful language signs even on the March day that Giffords learned about the people killed during the Jan. 8 Tucson rampage.

Kelly said he was reading a newspaper story about her out loud when she noticed he skipped a paragraph. He said he hadn't realized how well she could read.

That paragraph told of the casualties in the Tucson shooting -- news that set Giffords grieving.

"So many people, so many people," Giffords repeated. Poteet said she would find Giffords with heavy looks on her face, repeating "no-no-no-no-no."

For that reason, Kelly said, he hasn't told her that the victims included her friends and colleagues Gabe Zimmerman and Judge John Roll, or a 9-year-old girl, and three others, the kind of older constituents she loves to help.

Kelly said he wants her to be able to process the emotions without fighting so hard for the words.

"The challenge is she knows what she wants to say, and she knows everything that's going on around her," Carusone said, but can't always express it. "It's frustrating for her. She'll sigh out of exasperation."

According to Giffords' doctors, the Arizona Republic piece reported, she is, as the AP reporter put it, "in the top 5 percent of patients recovering from her type of brain injury." Which isn't much consolation to that other 95 percent, but again, especially in the case of man-made disasters, it feels important to learn of someone coming back from the abyss.

Gerard Francisco, the chief medical officer at the Houston facility where Giffords has been recovering, TIRR Memorial Hermann, who's said to work with her daily, says, "She shows a lot more independence right now. She's her own person." Her rehab, we're told, "has been progressing steadily."

From the AP report:
Nurse Kristy Poteet said Giffords pushes a cart up and down the hospital halls as therapy, focusing on using the correct muscles.

Poteet, who has worked with Giffords since she arrived in Houston on Jan. 21, said more therapy comes from games of bowling and indoor golf, all small steps on the way to someday walking that mountain. [The Republic report credits her with the determination to "walk a mountain."]

Giffords uses her left side and has begun making limited use of her right arm and leg, a common effect of a bullet wound on the left side of the brain.

"Her left side is perfect," said Pia Carusone, her legislative chief of staff. "She can do whatever you can do."

She said that even in her wheelchair Giffords retains the tall, tight, strong posture she had before the shooting.

The AP reporter adds:
Dong Kim, the neurosurgeon who oversees Giffords's care, said most of the physical and speech recovery happens within nine to 12 months, but a patient's ability to think can improve for years.



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