(CBS) We continue to hear about hopeful signs of recovery from Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. On Saturday morning, doctors removed her breathing tube, freeing the Congresswoman from the ventilator. At the same time, they inserted a tracheotomy tube into her windpipe to protect her airways and inserted a feeding tube from outside the skin into the stomach to help provide nutrition.
The Congresswoman's progress to date is remarkable. She is opening her eyes and moving her limbs on both sides of her body. This is significant since brain injuries often leave a patient with impaired function on the opposite side of the body from where the brain was damaged. In the Congresswoman's case the bullet struck the left side of her brain which, as well as controlling the
muscles on the right side of the body, controls the speech centers. We don't yet know how the shooting may have affected the Congresswoman's ability to speak. Now that doctors removed the breathing tube, they hope to determine what, if any speech rehabilitation will be necessary.
As optimistic as the reports have been, there is still a long road ahead for Congresswoman Giffords. Gunshot wounds to the brain are complex injuries. Those lucky enough to survive often face long rehabilitation and neurological complications may plague them for years to come. But by all indications, Congresswoman Giffords has the will to pull through. She's getting spectacular medical care from superb doctors and nurses at UMC and she's got a nation pulling for her too.