Giffords Arrives At Houston Hospital From Tucson


Doctors say Gabrielle Giffords will begin rehab later this afternoon in the intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, USA TODAY's Donna Leinwand reports.

"She looks spectacular," said Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon. "Alert, awake, calm. She looked comfortable. She's got very good movement on the left side of her body."

Giffords is "clearly aware of her surroundings," Kim said. "She's interacting with us and her family."

She will remain in ICU and not be transferred to Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital until doctors remove a drain to prevent fluid build up. "The drain issue is a big deal," said Dr. John Holcomb, a trauma surgeon at the Houston hospital. " We want to make sure that doesn't get infected."

"She's doing great," he added. "It truly could have been a lot worse. … This was a tangential gunshot wound and it clearly did not damage large portions of her brain."

Because part of her skull was removed, she'll continue to wear a special helmet -- adorned with an Arizona flag -- to protect her exposed brain. It will be "weeks if not months" before her skull is repaired, said Dr. Randall Friese, the Tucson doctor who accompanied her to Houston.

Doctors say she can move the left side of her body, but has some signs of paralysis or weakness in her right arm.

"She has great rehabilitative potential," said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer at the rehab hospital. "She will keep us busy and we will keep her busy."

During the ambulance ride to the Tucson air base, Giffords could hear applause several times from people lining the route. "She responded very well to that — smiling, and in fact, even tearing up a little bit. It was very emotional, very special," Friese said. "I think she understood the immense support our city has for her."