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Posted by on Feb 14, 2011 in Politics, Science & Technology, Society | 0 comments

Gabrielle Giffords Briefly Talks and Mouths Song Lyrics

Here’s hopeful news that will lift the spirits of all Americans who have a heart: one month after being shot, Gabrielle Giffords is briefly talking — and mouthing the lyrics to songs. The operative question now is whether the hopes that this further raises match realistic medical realities. But hope has reason to spring eternal:

Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an eloquent speaker before she was shot in the head last month, is relearning the skill — progressing from mouthing words and lip-syncing songs to talking briefly by telephone to her brother-in-law in space.

With a group of friends and family members acting as a backup chorus, Ms. Giffords has been mouthing the lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby.” And as a surprise for her husband, who is celebrating his birthday this month, a longtime friend who has been helping her through her rehabilitation videotaped her mouthing the words to “Happy Birthday to You.”

What’s at play in creating a further manifestation of what a month ago would seem like a “miracle” today?

It’s not just Giffords’ spirit: it’s also the spirits of her wonderful friends and family. Progress is not always getting back to where you were after a setback but getting back on course — matter what the pace — to where you were before.

And that’s what’s happening here:

“It’s not like she’s speaking the way she spoke, but she is vocalizing and making progress every day,” Pia Carusone, Ms. Giffords’s chief of staff, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “She’s working very hard. She’s determined. It’s a tight schedule. A copy of it is hanging on her door.”

Outside specialists say it remains unclear, despite the hopeful early signs, what functions in Ms. Giffords’s mind were affected by the traumatic injuries she suffered when she was shot at point-blank range on Jan. 8 at a constituent event in Tucson.

It is not uncommon for patients with a similar injury to have trouble communicating or undergo personality changes, brain specialists say. Everything from ambition and concentration to short-term memory and social inhibitions can be affected, doctors say.

But relatives and friends who have been at Ms. Giffords’s side as she undergoes rehabilitation at a hospital in Houston said in interviews and e-mail exchanges that though her recovery was slow and exhausting, it was marked by significant progress.

Indeed. And with the progress comes more hope that the future will bring more progress that comes the same way that hopes that seemed a month ago to some seemed unrealistic but are now reality.