Ariz. congresswoman less sedated, more responsive

These photos were taken Sunday in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' room at University Medical Center. They show Mark Kelly holding his wife's hand.

January 12, 2011 2:16:10 PM PST
Four days after being shot in the head, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was making small movements on her own, tugging at her hospital gown and touching her wounds, one of her doctors said Wednesday.

Giffords remained in critical condition at Tucson's University Medical Center after she was struck once in the head Saturday. Authorities accuse Jared Loughner, 22, of opening fire on a crowd at an event she was holding. Nineteen people were shot and six died.

The three-term Democrat was expected to live and has been making progress. Giffords is more alert after nurses eased her sedation. She can breathe on her own, respond to voice commands and even make small spontaneous motions.

"She was able to actually even feel her wounds herself," said trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee, adding she had also pulled at her gown.

Rhee declined to elaborate about her latest progress.

Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has remained by her bedside. Kelly is supposed to command shuttle Endeavour's final mission in April, but NASA has refused to discuss his flight status.

Though Giffords hasn't suffered any setbacks in her recovery, her long-term outlook remains unclear.

Rhee said he expected some permanent damage to occur from the bullet passing through the left side of her brain.

"Will she be functional, viable, normal? I can't say for sure, but I'm very hopeful she will be," he said.

One of Giffords' political aides, 65-year-old Ron Barber, has a memory of the rampage, said his daughter Jenny Douglas.

"He remembers it all, very clearly," said Douglas, who declined to share the details.

Barber was recovering after being shot in the leg, face and neck area. He constantly seeks for information about the congresswoman from his family. Douglas thinks a meeting might help with his recovery.

"He's just asking about her every day," she said.