TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was recovering well from a pair of weekend surgeries to remove a breathing tube from her nose and the repair her right eye socket, doctors said on Monday.
Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of Neurology at University Medical Center in Tucson, said Giffords’ next milestone would be discharge from the hospital, marking her graduation from recovery to rehabilitation.
“It could be a matter of days or weeks,” Lemole told reporters at a press conference.
Giffords, 40, was struck in the head by a single bullet during the shooting rampage, which killed six people and injured 13, including the congresswoman.
She was upgraded from critical to serious condition on Sunday, after she had been removed from a ventilator and the critical risk of brain swelling had passed.
Giffords, a Democrat representing Tucson and southern Arizona who authorities believe was the gunman’s intended target, had been the only victim of the shooting still listed in critical condition.
One patient was discharged on Saturday, leaving two others hospitalized in good condition.
College dropout Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was tackled to the ground and arrested following the shooting and has been charged with five federal counts, including murder and the attempted assassination of Giffords.
Doctors said Giffords remains mostly uncommunicative, despite the removal of the tubes in her face.
The removal of the breathing tube from her nose Saturday reduces the risk of infection but does not allow Giffords to talk, Dr Randall S. Friese, associate medical director of the hospital, told reporters.
Friese said Giffords was showing little interaction with others, and the new breathing and feeding tubes in her throat do not allow air to pass her vocal chords.
“She cannot vocalize,” Friese said.
During the surgery on Giffords’ eye, doctors removed bone fragments that were protruding into the socket and repairing the roof with metal mesh.
Doctors believe both of Giffords’ eyes are functioning and have previously said she was tracking objects with both eyes.
Writing by Dan Whitcomb, Editing Greg McCune