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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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‘Thumbs Up’ from Giffords

January 11, 2011 - 9:20 AM | by: Mike Tobin

A third night passes and the condition of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords didn’t change.  That doesn’t make for dramatic reporting, but it is exactly what her doctors were hoping for.  “In the next few days we want her to continue doing what she is doing, and even if we don’t come out here with glowing reports of progress, that’s good,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole. “She’s holding her own and I know that’s frustrating for everyone, the family the doctors all the well wishers and of course for her, but that’s the nature of a neurological injury.”

The development doctors fear is that the swelling in her injured brain will increase, creating pressure in the skull, cutting off circulation and causing more damage.  They are hoping that, 3 days since her horrific injury, the swelling will subside and they can breathe a sigh of relief. “That 3 day window is the most critical but I’ve seen cases where the brain swelling could reach its peak beyond that,” says Lemole.

Doctors are unable to tell if Giffords can speak because she is on a ventilator. Her communication has been limited to simple hand movements.  People took inspiration from reports that she communicated with the “thumbs up” gesture when doctors woke her from  sedation. However, her doctor says the type of gesture matters little, the fact that she can make one when asked matters a lot. “It doesn’t matter to me the thumbs up or two fingers or wiggling her toes, they all imply a higher level of brain function,” says Lemole.

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