May 6th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Gupta: What the future may hold for Giffords

Don’t miss “Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Saving Gabby Giffords,” on Sunday, May 8 at 7 p.m. ET. The documentary reveals exclusive details  of the extraordinary efforts by paramedics and doctors credited with  saving the life of the congresswoman. You can also join Dr. Gupta for a LIVE chat on Twitter during the program.

I asked the Tucson doctors who cared for Rep. Gabby Giffords a question many people have asked me: Would she be able to return to work on Capitol Hill?  Trauma surgeon, Dr.  Randy Friese did not hesitate in his response. “I voted for her before, and I told her that I plan on voting for her again,” he said.

Trauma chief Dr. Peter Rhee paused a bit before answering. “I think she will. I think that everybody wants her to. There's enough enthusiasm that that's going to probably occur. Is she going to be the same as she was before? I think she's going to have permanent changes in thoughts and memories and feelings and emotions, so we'll have to see how that pans out in the future but I think she'll be doing very well.”

The brain's amazing ability to heal

A day in the life of a member of Congress can be unpredictable. Countless meetings with staff and constituents, extemporaneous speaking requiring fluid language with immediate recall, and lots of movement, including stairs in the Capitol as well as travel. I was asking these doctors to predict how Gabby would eventually fare with all these things.

To be fair, the answer to the question is not knowable at this point, but doctors Friese and Rhee were basing their answer on how well Giffords has progressed since being shot in the head on January 8. We now have a better idea on how she survived.  But, to fulfill her doctor’s predictions, she would need extensive rehabilitation.

As I wrote in February:

When I walked into TIRR Memorial Hermann  hospital in Houston, I had a few things on my mind. I would get to see firsthand the type of therapy Congresswoman Giffords was receiving. I also realized that, despite sending hundreds of my own neurosurgery patients for rehabilitation, I had not spent as much time learning all the various therapies currently available and how they work together to restore function.

Giffords' doctor, Gerard Francisco, greeted me and showed me a white board of a therapy schedule he tailored for me. On this day, I was playing the patient [with a pattern of injuries like Giffords'.] An intensive, exhaustive seven-hour schedule was presented, full of therapy - physical, speech, recreational, occupational and my personal favorite – music therapy.

The mantra of Julie, my physical therapist, was “do not neglect your weak side.” While some patients may be inclined to overcompensate with the left side of the body, if the right side is weak, my therapy  focused on just the opposite. Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the left brain, and it would be her right body that would be affected.

Electrodes were hooked up to the muscles on my right leg, and then I was asked to ride a stationary bike. If my right leg wasn’t performing as well, small shocks stimulated the appropriate muscle during my pedaling, and also sent a message to the brain that this muscle was being ignored or neglected. Francisco explained that “it was part of the re-wiring process that takes place.”  We know the brain can tell a muscle what to do – such as lift your right leg. With these stimulations, the muscle is now also telling the brain what to do. [We have already seen evidence of the progress Giffords has made, as she navigated stairs to an airplane.]

During speech therapy, my therapist worked on what she called apraxia of speech. This is the difficulty to say words correctly and consistently. It is not due to weakness of speech muscles, or lack of coordination, but rather caused specifically by an injury to the brain. Think of saying “Len” whenever you wanted to say “when.” We practiced making movements with my lips and tongue and re-learning sounds made at the front, middle and rear of the mouth.

Near the end of the day, I sat with Maegan, my music therapist, and filled in words to well-known songs. Everything from "Twinkle, Twinkle" to "Maneater" by Hall and Oates. While it may have looked like simple and fun singing, Megan was constantly using strategies to externally cue me.

Simply singing a well known song required me to recall words, put them into a tune and vocalize them – all good practice for the extemporaneous speech required of a congresswoman.

Not even four months after Gabby Giffords was shot in the left side of her brain, she is making declarative statements with single words or short sentences. She is learning to write with her left hand, and as we saw, climbing stairs with assistance. She is completely responsive, according to her doctors and able to read the newspaper.

Who knows if Giffords will ever return to Capitol Hill, but as her doctors forecast, she is slowly and steadily building up the skills needed, if she decides to do so.

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Rep. Giffords appears to be making a remarkable recovery from the senseless attack she suffered earlier this year. If only there was some way her alleged assailant could experience the kind of pain and hopelessness she did after the shooting, he would probably ignore a crafty lawyer's advice and allocute in a heartbeat.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jay

      to be fair, he has likely been suffering severe mental pain his entire life that is not going to get better... ever.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
    • John L.

      My father was an open head wound victim. I have know many such people through support groups and otherwise. From the little info they have released about her I am of the opinion that she will never be anywhere near the same as before. And the more time goes by without quick improvement the less likely she will reach any normalcy.

      May 7, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      I am a physician who works with traumatic brain injury victims, she will not return to congress as an active member

      May 8, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
    • Neal

      If only there was some way her alleged assailant could experience the kind of pain and hopelessness she did after the shooting

      Have you seen are penal system lately?

      May 10, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
    • teresa


      October 17, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
  2. Kent in Dallas TX

    I do know anything about Rep. Gifford's political positions or voting record, but I definitly want her to go back to Congress, even if she needs a lighter workload & accomodations.

    Her experience as the victim of a brutally violent crime, gives her unique knowledge & understanding about crime & criminal justice.

    I wish her well.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      It is nice to be sympathetic and hope for someone to return to as normal life as possible in this situation. However, if a person is not capable of discharging the duties of their public office, they shouldn't be there in the first place. Government and public offices are already filled with people willfully not discharging the duties of their office, we don't need to add to that. The people of her district will decide that through voting and hopefully they will make the right choice given the situation at that time. I wish her well and hope she lives a long and happy life going forward.

      May 6, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      @I do know anything about Rep. Gifford's political positions or voting record

      Your the problem sir....your the problem. Stop voting straight ticket....

      May 7, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • Tiber

      @Your the problem sir....your

      Nay good sir, nay. You're the problem, you are the problem. English has rules, ignoring them only serves to marginalize whatever point you may have thought you had. An individual from Texas is not in anyway derelict in their duties as a citizen for being unaware of the voting record of a Congresswoman from Arizona.

      May 8, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse |
    • veggiedude

      "Your the problem sir....your the problem. Stop voting straight ticket."

      You assume he is in her district and needs to know her record. Wrong. He should only be concerned about the officials he needs to vote for.

      May 8, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      It sure didn't take long for these clowns to start fighting.

      May 8, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
  3. Kent in Dallas TX

    I meant to say that I do NOT know...

    May 6, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lisa

    Wishes her well...

    May 6, 2011 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kay

    Thank you for a very informative article. Many people, such as myself, know very little about traumatic brain injuries, and having all the information set out for us like this is extremely helpful in understanding people with many different kinds of injury.

    May 6, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Von Trimble

    If I were a mid-level management employee with the Gov't and I had been injured in the same way as Ms. Gaffords, would I have been afforded the same level of care and my position been held open while I heal and rehabilitate?

    May 6, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kelly

      but that is really not the point of the article. Don't focus on the negative

      May 6, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • Aarrgghh

      Mid level employees are hired not elected.. Apples never taste like oranges as they are different. As are employees from Lawmakers.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • Drinko De Mayo

      I really think it depends on the industry and the company. If you worked where I do, you would.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      Most people would have lost their job and certainly would NOT be getting such first-class care. Most people would be put in a care home with little to no physical therapy let alone all the other therapy Giffords is receiving.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      I think it is a very good point. Most people sympathize and wish this lady well but once again we see that government employees are treated much better than any other citizen but WHY? At my old company (who let me go for no fault of my own after 23 years of loyal service) if you are out of work for more than 6 months, no matter the reason, you are automatically terminated. Government officials and employees have it WAY TOO GOOD and the American citizens are crying uncle about it!

      May 6, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
    • obsthetimes

      Good point!

      May 6, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy James

      The Family Medical Leave Act would give you twelve weeks. The company's graces could give you longer.

      May 7, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      Yes you would. In fact if you were any kind of Federal Employee, today you would receive the same. This is what health care reform is about, providing us all with that kind of care when it is necessary. By scaling up health care, it actually becomes less expensive as it becomes more consistent and organized.

      May 8, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
    • VR

      Typical Tea Bagger.

      May 8, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
  7. David Midwest Guy

    It sounds like she has made remarkable recovery, but that her abilities are severely curtailed at this time. I would not want her removed from office in her current term, but if her abilities remain curtailed, I cannot envision that she could be an effective representative in the future. It would be a remarkable gesture toward the handicapped if her district reelected her knowing she could not fulfill the full duties of her office. I personally would find her to be a curious and ill-conceived choice, but on the other hand there are a number of other representatives who I find to be curious and ill-conceived choices.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Drinko De Mayo

      Yes, she is, but MIdwest Guy has a valid point. It would depend greatly on the extent of her abilities. If the issues are minor, it would be no problem. If major, then, well, I am sure Giffords herself would decline to serve. We all deserve competent representation (yeah, I know how hard that is to find regardless).

      May 6, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
    • jacksonvillecollector

      I wish her the best, of course. I received a Democratic fundraising e-mail signed by her a week or so ago with its usual amount of demeaning material toward the Republicans. So if she is not at her full capacity yet should the Democratic Party be using our sympathy for her as a victim of this heinous crime to be raising money?

      May 6, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse |
    • Geoffrey in Lowell MA

      I think you missed what the article said which was: Although she will not be the same there is a good chance that she WILL have the ability needed to succeed in congress. I also think that she has the integrity to not seek re-election if she herself cannot do the job. You obviously are not familiar with the woman that she is.

      May 8, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
  8. LastLiberalRepublican

    The Last Liberal Republican lives in Arizona and I'd like to vote for her for U.S. Senate.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tct

      I think a statewide campaign might be too much strain for her. As much as I'd like her to be a senator my concern for her forces me to hope she doesn't run for the senate.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
  9. WhoKnewIt

    Whether she can or cannot serve really is of no consequence to those of us here in Tucson that voted for her. Our primary concern for her, as for ALL the victims, is that they all heal physically and emotionally and go on to lead full and happy lives. If she is able to and desires to continue in her current position we will do everything we can to continue to support her. That includes voting her back in.....if she cannot then we will continue to pray for her and keep her in our hearts. She is an amazing woman. All of the victims hold a special place in our hearts here....that includes the families of those that died that day as well.....they will forever be remembered.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tct

      Also her being taken outside to see the Catalinas and having a rock from the desert in her room place her firmly in the hearts of all who love a patch of the desert or mountains here. Gabby will always be able to represent us if that's her wish.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
  10. The_Mick

    A place in Congress should not be viewed like royalty. The Congressperson represents his/her district. If you physically can not do so, step down and let someone represent that district. If she is capable of doing so in the future, let her run again: she'll have an enormous emotional advantage.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mark

    Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd were able to keep serving into extreme old age and frailty. Whatever impairments remain are not likely to hold her back from re-election year after year and serving.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deb

      Strom Thurman and Robert Byrd overstayed their welcome. In Byrd's later years, he only showed up to vote on issues that were going to be too close to chance.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
  12. AZ Dem

    I pray that Rep. Giffords is able to resume her work in the Congress before her term is up next year. Having met Rep Giffords in D.C. while in high school she is the most genuine representative I ever spoke with her and Jeff Flake truly left me in awe at their sincere care for the people here in AZ. I would enjoy nothing more than to cast another vote for her in the future its just a shame that it won't be for Senator because she IS the Democrats best chance to get a Democratic Senator in AZ....hopefully she can run when McCain finally leaves. Can I just say that she is such an amazing woman and I hope she makes a FULL recovery.

    May 6, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JeremiahWright

      Giffords is too liberal to ever win a statewide race in Arizona.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
  13. Johnathan

    "Since being shot in the head on Jan. 18th...."

    Really?!? I live in Tucson, and am a student at the University of Arizona. The shooting happened on January 8th, not the 18th. How can you mess THAT up? Come on CNN.

    May 6, 2011 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathy

      I'm in Tucson too, and that's a date that I'll never forget. It was most definitely January 8th.

      May 7, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      that's great that ya'll live in tucson and think the world revolves around you, but in fact that shooting was not on par with pearl harbor or jfk's death, and hence the date is not burned into everyone's soul like you think it should be.

      May 8, 2011 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
  14. Stu Pidd

    The fact that Rep. Giffords has not been replaced despite being out of work for months, shows that politicians are non essential personnel. If a trash collector were out of work, that slot would have to be immediately filled.

    May 6, 2011 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. John

    I think the doctors are trying to be optimistic. But most have said that in the first year a person with a severe injury makes the most recovery. After that its slow to a crawl. I remember Jim Brady who was shot in the head. His abilities ended up being less then he had hoped too. I certainly hope Ms Gifford recovers to almost that of before she was shot. But I think being more realistic would be to expect her to just go back to enjoying life.

    May 6, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Fritz Hohenheim

    Here is one question that never gets answered in the news: Is she still in congress? And if so, is it wise to have a person with a bullet through the head make decision that affect the country?

    May 6, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tct

      Yes and yes. Fortunately the sociopathic idiots asking that question don't pollute her district with their presence.

      May 6, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
  17. khandi

    I would like to know about the other victims. Yes there were other victims....

    May 6, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tct

      If you REALLY c ared about them you would've read quite a few updates with all the information the victims authorized to become public knowledge, but you're just a hate filled troll posing as a human.

      May 6, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  18. Mary

    enough with the re-hashing of the same old..!!! how about you discuss something that you actually do know instead of this BS in future/fortune-telling, guess-work, etc.. This story has been "milked for all it's worth" by you and many others. Bottom line – NO ONE KNOWS, and yet you show just how low you can stoop just to get more attention and publish a non-sensical article.. ENOUGH ALREADY!!! If CNN is willing to pay you for not doing anything other than voicing your opinion, regardless if it has a medical basis or not, then at least stick to the medical facts and to the work that YOU do and not based on someone else's work!

    May 6, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary is a Troll

      Mary - you are the worst sort of troll. You read the article to criticize. I am interested in this material, and found it quite informative. You comment only to state you did not. If you were not interested, then move on to someone else, and spare us your BS comments.

      May 8, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
  19. TJeff1776

    One writer above questions whether Ms. Gifford should be afforded extra treatment perhaps NOT given most others. She was, and is, NOT the average citizen by virtue of being elected to high office. She represents US. Were it not for her
    elected office, she wouldn't have been shot. Taxpayers have an obligation in this case not owed the average citizen. She falls in the exact same category as the military. Damn, it might, in the future, be safer on the battlefield than in politics if the Repub and Demos keep mixing it up.

    May 6, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Michael

    If she getting all this Medical treatment she has got hellafide health care package. I sure hope that are people in the millatary are getting the same benefits and what the average american working we would out of luck because are benefits would have run out by now. just some thoughts to consider

    May 7, 2011 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • truthfulster

      Boy Mike, I think you should brush up on your English skills or at least read what you type after. You've left out words that make a story interesting to read.

      May 7, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      Michael, No. Regrettably not everyone who works for the governments is provided the same quality of healthcare benefits that our wealthy congressional leaders are given. It would be very interesting to have Dr. Gupta provide a newsworthy piece which compares the quality of care for a similar injury to one of country's brave service personnel to responsiveness and committment to Ms. Giffords recovery. While clearly life is now different for both, I would suspect the individual who agreed to be in harms way is the one on the short end of the stick.

      May 25, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
  21. truthfulster

    The first thing you must realize is the fact that the media hasn't posted a picture of this person, WHY, is she so grotesque that we can't bare to look. EVERYONE wants to see what she looks like after being shot in the head and yet making such a fast recovery. That will make up a lot of minds on whether people believe she could continue to due her job.

    May 7, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Heidi

    The answer is NO, she will not be returning to work...not with one word & short "sentences"?!
    It is just that no one wants to say it.

    May 7, 2011 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kent in Dallas TX


    I not vote stratght ticket Democrat. As a matter of fact, I am a conservative Republican.

    Although I probably do not agree with her political views, I still think that it will be good to have somebody in Congress who has been the victim of a violent crime. She could do something for other victims of crime.

    May 7, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ty Rock

    Between the constant CNN TV segments and the daily CNN online articles , I think you've more than driven this subject, along with any interest I once had in it, into the ground. Dr. Gupta, please move on to something else, until there's actual new information to share on this topic.

    May 7, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jake

    Why wouldn't she return? She's only suffered a serious head injury. I'm sure she'll fit right in with the rest of congress.

    May 8, 2011 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Diane

    I, from my own personal head injury...hematoma where I lost permantly 3% of my brain: can honestly say it took me 18months to 2 years to see how far I would go with healing and recovery. That was in 1994...I learned to walk again, drive, play memory games to reroute my synapses, and went to nursing school 7 years ago to become a registered nurse. I raised two kids by myself and still deal daily with fatigue, helping others, working full time and being a useful contibuting member of society. I believe I am not the only one blessed by God this way, and that if nothing else she still can contribute to our nation whether through inspiration or legislation.

    May 8, 2011 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. JehseaLynn

    Dr. Gupta, with all due respect, you – and all those in the media who continue to intimate that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has a reasonable chance of resuming her duties in Congress – do an enormous injustice to all of us who suffer greatly, each day, to perform the simple tasks required to live.

    Frankly, as a person totally and permanently disabled by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), I RESENT you for it. When you imply that Gabby *may* recover enough with an unspoken "who knows?", you invalidate my monumental struggle over the past 11 years to heal, to regain my memory, to quell wild, unpredictable mood swings that drove my daughters away, to speak fluidly and find the right word when I need it, to problrm-solve, OH GOD, TO MULTI-TASK, you've NO idea how important multi-tasking IS!

    And nobody can SEE our TBIs, brain injury is hidden, stealthy; so people think you are crazy – even Doctors who "get" brain injury, forget it when it sits right in front of them in their office. They think you are attention-seeking, Munchausen's or you want narcotics becausr you're crying AGAIN (really! can't you control your emotions?) Well actually, ahh, NO, I LOST THAT, TOO...

    Stop putting out false expectations, loading more pressure on the shouldets of those of us who already suffer TBIs horrific and isolating pain, and get REAL about it. I mean, even the military finally recognized brain injury as such a severe INVISIBLE wound that it is now eligible for the Purple Heart!

    May 8, 2011 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr Perry Fisher

      You are right Gupta s experience is in the media not Neurosurgery,he is an actor not a surgeon.

      May 8, 2011 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
  28. Pippin Shire

    As always, Dr. G is spot on. A Very Model of a Modern Major Medicine.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. pragmatic

    One does not need a medical degree to understand this. She had a bullet shot through the brain. If that does not translate into "damage" (permanent or temporary) something is wrong. She is fortunate to have resources for the best rehab. And that brings up another point that is missed: REHAB- it's rehabilitation- not a cure. Be definition, it works to restore as much function as possible- and it's likely unknown at this time- just what that means for her. Everyone will respond differently and will either miss or exceed expectations on their care team. I think articles like this -as JehsealLynn pointed out- undermine the reality and sets false expectations for those also suffering TBI and their families. I am a nurse and of course wish her the very best but I struggle with families misled- it leads to more heartbreak than necessary.

    May 8, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Monocacy

    I hope they cover why she had to be trached. Seems very odd.... wonder if her she had a traumatic intubation at the scene... hmm

    May 8, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Terry Brookman

    Judging by the state of the country being in congress really does not have much to do with brains. I hope she recovers and has a happy life.

    May 8, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Lynn M. Papastavros

    I really feel for gabby giffords but I really feel hurt that her brain injury gets better help than my daughter who has limited funds gabby will get better medical and rehab than a citizen that does not have resources like the congress women.. There are a lot people with brain injuries that need the attention as well......Please respond...........

    May 8, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. A. Nony

    While I do not agree with all Rep. Giffords positions, and while I would be unhappy at being accused of being a liberal (to forestall some of the more idiotic comments these stories elicit), I hope she does return to active duty in the Congress. As a former Senate staffer, I have seen first hand how first rate staff compensate for their temporarily dysfunctional Member (e.g., their hungover Member) and even their permanently dysfunctional Member (e.g., senile Member) and how good staff can make even an unquestionably stupid Member seem less so. Ever notice those people sitting behind the Members during hearings, passing them notes and whispering into their ears? Part of the function of staff is to act as an auxiliary brain and
    a memory band for their Member. If Rep. Giffords retains (or regains) good judgment, the ability to think
    strategically and to set priorities, initiative and energy, her staff can smooth over many rough spots for her. She seems to me to be intelligent enough so that, even with some residual handicaps, she will be up there with the better congresscritters.

    May 8, 2011 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. A. Nony

    "memory bank", not "memory band." Sorry for the typo. As for whether or not Rep. Giffords will be able to think strategically, set priorities and exercise good judgment, who knows, at this point? It has been less than four months. But I have seen a Senator so hung over he could not hold his head up and could speak only in a barely intelligible mumble being prompted almost word for word by his staff. And this was a very widely respected Senator (but not by me). His very able staff knew what he wanted to accomplish and did much of his work for him. I don't say this is right, but this is the way it is.

    May 8, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mireya

      I am interested in reading about GG even though I never heard about her prior to this tragic day. I don't try to judge if her news has higher relevance then other topics. Instead, I wish the best for her and her family. She is an inspiration to me. I often think is GG is having to face long therapy days, my on challenges seem less difficult. Why do we have to wonder if she is going back to work? Give her time to recover and let it be what she will decide when the time is right. As for making comments on her insurance and how much the government is paying, it is not my place. When I agree to work for a company, my employer presents me with an insurance package. I have the option to agree to it or find a different job with better benefits. We have options, we have goals and it is up to us as individuals to better ourselves. In her case, GG prepared herself through self discipline, commitment and highly goal oriented. In my case,I decided I wanted to improve my wages and went back to school. Sadly, some of us have basic insurance and others don't have insurace at all. I would like to see Americans having at basic insurance but to hope that all Americans have same quality of insurance is wishful thinking.

      I am happy GG is improving. Just because someone is disable it does not mean that someone is not qualify to do the work. True, her staff will be there to aid her as needed. Even if she will need a nurse at her side, still it does not mean that this will automatically disqualify her to perform her duties. Keep in mind that there is something called "American with Disability Act (ADA)" in which if a person can still perform his or her duties, accomodations must be made. ADA "prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accomodstion, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunicstions relay services". The ADA information was taken from the United States Department of Labor webside.

      May 9, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse |
  35. idjit2442

    TIRR in Houston is an incredible place. They have done & continue to do miracle like work. Whether Giffords is able to return to Congress or not, she has already far surpassed what some felt she could do. While the physical therapists & Doctors are important, the patient has to WANT to get better. Giffords has the right stuff.

    I am not a Democrat, & not in Gabby's district. But if I could, I would vote for her if she returns to form.

    May 8, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Henry

    I am personally dubious of Gifford returning to congress. Of course here doctors, in the public spot lot, will paint the most positive clinical picture. However, while her short term response is promising, it will be Years to recovery. For those that are truly interested, go look a tbi.org and similar communities who have people that do not have the benefit of the "Ted Kennedy" style health care she is being afforded. Even with such health care, she will likely be little more than a poster.

    May 9, 2011 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. janinpenna

    While we can never rule out a miracle, I think we all know that it's unlikely that a person with this trauma can return to their previous job.

    This saddens me on so many levels. Another bright productive person damaged by a deranged individual.

    May 9, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. JehseaLynn

    @Jake, the TBI treating physician, thank you for stating the hard truth. @Mireya – I almost wish I could still be a "pie-in-the-sky" thinker like you, where employers loved the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and, gee whilickers!, just want every employee to be fully accomodated in the workplace while we all sing "Kumbayah" on break time, but since I suffer a seizure disorder AS A RESULT OF MY BRAIN INJURY – my employers FIRED me for having seizures. Before you gasp "that's illegal!" ah, yeah, I know, I went to lae school as a single mom but my employers were cutthroat; they hired a lawuer to coach them on how to get me out without s paper trail or problem. Eventually they took my work away, refused accomidations VERBALLY (no email trail) and then "eliminated my position." And I did WANT TO GET BETTER. I worked my behind off to retrain my brain but it was too sevetely damaged in too many places. Who in their right mind guves up a six figure income they educated themselves for, in exchange for LESS THAN $1,000/MONTH?

    May 9, 2011 at 03:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. a european

    Who pays for the medical expenses in your broke US health care system?
    Will the American insurance pay for brain surgery and rehabilitation? Or will Giffords get a $500k medical bill?
    Republican Americans protested against Obama's health care reform, so maybe they also know the answer?

    May 9, 2011 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. BD70

    From the day this happened I didn't think Giffords would be able to return to Congress. The stress and demands alone will be too much. I watched a person return to work after a brain injury. Thought they could handle it...lasted a month and left. Even meetings would cause her to put her head down and cry.

    May 9, 2011 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. John

    We did not know anything about aphasia. Aphasia means the impairment of language. Communication is necessary every day.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jason

    There is an elevator in that building. I just saw it in the background on the news recently. It would be dangerous to assume someone couldnt be in congress because of a physical challenge.

    May 9, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Jane

    Please tell the Giffords team to watch the TED talk of the neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor who recovered, albeit after years, from a very severe stroke. She wrote My Stroke of Insight about her observations as the stroke took place and her ultimate recovery.

    June 13, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. teresa


    October 17, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.