Rep. Giffords resigns to focus on rehabilitation

January 23, 2012 4:47:46 PM PST
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has made great progress since she was shot in the head last January. She was treated her in Houston at Memorial Hermann TIRR, but some say she may face more pitfalls and plateaus during her recovery.

"She's still new at this recovery thing, she's got a long way to go still," Houston Police Officer Danny Vaughan said.

It's been almost 20 years since Vaughan was shot four times in the head. As he watched Giffords' resignation video, he remembered his own rehab at TIRR.

"Just looking here at the video, she's got some more speech therapy to go through, a little more physical therapy maybe," Vaughan said.

Vaughan says his voice was robotic, too, much like Giffords, and he believes that will improve.

"It was flat, monotone, had no inflections in it. They teach you how to get the voice, high rises back in, usually by singing lessons. They had us sing Duran Duran music in the hospital," Vaughan said.

Vaughan lost an eye, and full use of his left arm and leg. But eventually he got married, went back to work and learned to drive again.

Brain injury specialist Dr. Cindy Ivanhoe was Vaughan's doctor.

"It's not easy anyway to have a brain injury and have to go through the processes, and the therapies and what it does to your life and your family. The health care issues certainly make it more difficult," Ivanhoe said.

She explains it's getting harder to get patients the kind of expensive neuro rehab they need.

"Some insurance companies will limit you to 60 days of rehab. That doesn't mean we can fix what we can fix in 60 days of rehab," Ivanhoe said.

Vaughan now does his rehab with a trainer in the gym. He says if he stops his exercises, he loses ground. And expects the same will be true for Giffords.

"She'll be going through this the rest of her life like I do," Vaughan said.

Brain injury specialists say the brain continues to recover years after an injury, if patients can get and continue their therapy.