Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., remained in critical condition in Tucson one day after a gunman shot her at point-blank range in the head, killing six people and wounding at least a dozen others. The other survivors have been moved out of intensive care units, surgeons at the University of Arizona Medical Center said Sunday.
The good news is that the bullet didn't cross from one hemisphere of Giffords' brain to the other, which was the chief concern of her surgeons. Giffords was concious and able to follow simple commands on Sunday morning, said Michael Lemole, the chief of neurosurgery at the medical center. "I am cautiously optimistic," he said.
Still, surgeons made it clear that Giffords suffered a "devastating" wound, and it wasn't clear yet how well she would recover. The bullet went into the left side of Giffords' brain, and it traveled from the back to the front. The affected region of the brain regulates speech, among other things. Giffords did not speak on Sunday morning, according to Peter Rhee, the trauma medical director.
The damage caused by the bullet is irreparable, and doctors' main job after such a trauma is to make sure that damage is contained. Still, "there is a lot of capacity that the human body has and the ability for the human body to compensate," Rhee said. "Overall, this is about as good as it can get when you get shot through the head."
Quick action on the part of the paramedics on the scene accounts for the optimistic prognosis for all the victims of the shootings. "No one died that shouldn't have died," Rhee said.
Giffords could spend as much as a week in the ICU and could face months of rehabilitation.
A makeshift press center is being assembled at the medical center, with daily briefings expected in which surgeons will brief the press on Giffords' condition.