Individuals recovering from traumatic brain injury do not typically regain the ability to speak until at least a month and a half after the injury occurs. However, Gabrielle Giffords, the Congresswoman from Arizona who recently suffered a gunshot wound to the head, shows us the resiliency of the human spirit. A bullet penetrated the entire length of the left hemisphere of her brain on January 8, 2011. Not only did Giffords survive, but she continues to improve, showing signs of significant recovery. She has defied doctors’ predictions that she would never speak again.
Soon after the shooting, medical crews transferred Giffords to the University Medical Center in Houston. Doctors’ first priority was to minimize secondary damage that often occurs from swelling after a brain injury. They removed part of her brain to make more room for the swelling. Despite these drastic measures, Giffords could respond to simple commands, showing she was not paralyzed and that her brain could accept and process instructions. Already, she displayed miraculous results with these tiny victories.
Medically Induced Coma Helped Healing
To help Giffords heal more efficiently, doctors induced a coma through chemical means, adjusting sedation as needed. As a result, Giffords opened her eyes a mere four days after the shooting, showing she could make sporadic movements.
Secondary Surgery to Remove Bone Fragments
Later, Giffords doctors removed fragments of shattered bone that had become lodged behind her right eye socket. At this point, doctors took her off the ventilator, allowing her to recover more quickly. Soon, Giffords could stand with a little help from medical professionals. This level of functioning was amazing, given that doctors still had to place another tube to help drain the excess fluid that had accumulated around her brain.
Gabrielle Giffords is currently rehabilitating at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Center in Houston, Texas. She is slowly regaining her strength and her way of life. Speaking and communication is slow, but improving. Her mobility improves as she relearns to hold objects, stand up straight, sing songs and play simple games.
Tiny Achievements, Major Victories
Giffords is lucky. She can tell those around her what she needs and wants through words and gestures. Simple exercises like squats and long walks through the hospital are bringing back her strength. These simple activities look like tiny achievements to most, but to those with brain injuries they are major victories.
We still don’t know how far Giffords will come in her recovery. Her early progress is a hopeful sign and an inspiration to all who struggle to recover after traumatic brain injury.
If you or someone you love suffers from traumatic brain injury, contact our office. Our caring, experienced attorneys will provide you with a free consultation. We will work with you to ensure you receive the financial compensation you deserve for medical bills, loss of income, and other damages.