Talking as Recovery Continues

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is walking with assistance, mouthing the words to songs, and speaking simple sentences as she recovers after being shot through the head at a public event on Jan. 8, according to reports from friends, family, and the congresswoman’s staff.

Although doctors have not provided an update on Giffords’ condition since she began full-time rehabilitation on Jan. 26 at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann in Houston, a report in the New York Times noted that she has lip-synched words to several songs and is walking the halls with assistance.

A spokesman from the congresswoman’s office confirmed the information from the Times report for MedPage Today.

Experts contacted by ABC News and MedPage Today said reports of her progress are about what would be expected for someone with a good recovery pattern.

“Her overall recovery seems good but perhaps not overly surprising for someone who regained consciousness so quickly after her injury,” according to Dr. Shari Wade, of the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Giffords was reportedly able to respond to requests immediately after the shooting and shortly before undergoing surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., where she was treated before moving to Houston for rehabilitation.

“Duration of unconsciousness is the single best predictor of recovery,” Wade explained in an e-mail, “and someone who is unconscious for a few hours or a few days will recover much more rapidly and more completely than someone who is unconscious for a month or more.”

According to Dr. Gregory O’Shanick, chair of the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of America, “her recovery curve is somewhat rapid but is what we expect to see when someone has the benefit of a comprehensive inpatient rehab program immediately after their brain injury and receives therapies from an experienced team in an aggressive program.”