TUCSON, Ariz. — Just three days after a bullet passed through Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ brain, and one day before the president was scheduled to come here to address the shooting rampage in which she was wounded, doctors said Tuesday that Giffords’ chances of survival were certain. She is able to breathe on her own, although she remains on a ventilator as a precaution.
What her recovery will look like, however, and how long it will take remain unclear.
“She has a 101 percent chance of survival,” said Dr. Peter Rhee the director of medical trauma at the University Medical Center, where Giffords is being treated. “I can’t tell whether she’s going to be in a vegetative state. I hope that she’s not and I don’t think she will be in a vegetative state, but I know that she’s not going to die.”
President Barack Obama will deliver a speech here Wednesday evening at a memorial service for the victims of the attack. His aides said he would focus on the theme of service to country and avoid the debate about whether the state’s political climate might have played a role in the tragedy.
Instead, Obama, who was still working with his speechwriters Tuesday, will call for unity among Americans, while trying to hold up the lives of the victims, including their service to government, as an example to all Americans. He will share some anecdotes about the victims from private phone calls he has made to the families, aides said.
Meanwhile, across Tucson, there was a flurry of efforts to address the psychological effects of Saturday morning’s shootings, which left six dead and 14 wounded. Two churches held memorial services Tuesday night, drawing large crowds.
In Phoenix, the state Legislature quickly passed an emergency law to block a church that protests outside funerals from getting too close to the services planned in Tucson.
The measure, which keeps protesters 300 feet back from funerals, is intended to head off members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, who have praised the shooting and plan to picket the funeral Thursday of Christina Green, a 9-year-old victim, and a service Friday for Judge John M. Roll of Federal District Court.
At the hospital, Giffords’ doctors said the outcome could have been far worse. They said she had done remarkably well so far. But they cautioned that there was little more they could do medically to help her improve.
Over the past several days, Giffords has repeatedly given nonverbal responses to her doctors’ commands, they said, and CAT scan X-rays have shown that there is no swelling, which continues to be the most serious threat. So far, doctors said, she has shown only slight movement on the right side of her body, raising questions about her functional neurological status. Doctors again declined to give some specific details about Giffords.