Giffords still critical but condition encouraging, doctors say

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 10, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Doctors said Monday they were encouraged that the condition of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has stabilized since she underwent emergency brain surgery on Saturday after being shot by a gunman who went on to kill six people and wound numerous others.

The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, will make his first appearance in federal court on Monday in Phoenix. The 22-year-old college castoff and Army reject faces two counts of murder and three attempted murder charges in connection with the mass shooting that has stunned the nation.

A federal judge and a nine-year-old girl were among those killed. Reports say Loughner fired 31 shots in the rampage and had 90 rounds on hand before he was subdued at the scene by witnesses. From the White House, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, led the nation in a moment of silence at 11 a.m. EST in honor of the shooting victims.

Giffords remains in critical condition and is fighting for her life at University Medical Center in Tucson after a bullet entered her left temple and exited her forehead area. But doctors are pleased that the swelling in her brain hasn’t progressed, said neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael LeMole of Tucson's University Medical Center.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” LeMole said Monday. “That swelling can sometimes take 3 day or 5 days to maximize. But everyday that goes by and we don’t see an increase, we’re slightly more optimistic.”

Swelling typically peaks around the third day after surgery and LeMole said doctors would breathe a “collective sigh of relief after the third or fourth day.”

Giffords, who’s breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, continues to respond to minor commands to grip a finger or raise a thumb, LeMole said.

In all, Giffords and seven other shooting victims remain hospitalized. Five are in serious condition and two are in good condition.

During the national moment of silence, Obama and the First Lady stood side by side, hands crossed, heads bowed and eyes closed as a crowd of government officials looked on. A similar scene unfolded on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

At the same time during morning rush hour in Tucson, first responders and others gathered for the tribute at the supermarket where the shooting occurred. Joined by store employees, they stood silently looking out over the crime scene, which was still draped in yellow police tape.

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