Brain Fluid Buildup Keeps Gabrielle Giffords in ICU

Doctors have said buildup may keep her in the ICU for several more days.

Jan. 23, 2011— -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has a buildup of fluid in her brain that will keep her in intensive care at a Houston hospital for at least several days, but doctors said that is not delaying her intense physical and speech therapy.

Doctors need to decide when a catheter inserted Friday to drain the fluid can be removed, which would allow Giffords to be transferred from the ICU at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research), or if they will need to insert a permanent shunt.

"No one expects her to go rapidly to TIRR," trauma surgeon Dr. John Holcomb said. "We just have to wait and see if the fluid buildup issue resolves itself."

Holcomb added that the fluid buildup, which doesn't appear to be infected, was down a little on Saturday and that she was a little more alert and responsive.

Giffords landed at Houston's Hobby Airport shortly after 1 p.m. CT Friday and immediately was transported to the Texas Medical Center's intensive care unit by medical helicopter.

Before departing for Houston Friday morning, Giffords left the Tucson, Ariz., hospital where she had been treated since suffering a gunshot to her head in an attack two weeks ago. She was the last shooting victim to leave the hospital.

Cheered by crowds of well-wishers, Giffords, 40, was taken by ambulance to a nearby Air Force base where a specially equipped private plane was ready to carry her to Texas.

Giffords was accompanied to Houston by her astronaut husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, her doctors, and her mother, Gloria Giffords.

Along her roughly 10-mile route to the Air Force base, crowds of supporters stood on the curb, cheering and waving flags and signs as her motorcade passed by. Giffords' ambulance was escorted by a squadron of military veterans on motorcycles.

"We could hear applause in the ambulance with Gabby, and she responded very well to that, smiling and even tearing a little bit," said Dr. Randall Friese, one of the doctors who treated Giffords in Tucson. "It was very emotional and very special."

At a press conference in Houston late Friday afternoon, Giffords' medical team said that the trip went flawlessly and that while she has a long road ahead, she has great potential for rehabilitation.

Now that her Tucson team has handed over responsibility for Giffords' care, they said their goodbyes and will return to Arizona.

"I'm going to miss her a lot," said Tracy Culbert, the nurse who cared for Giffords over the last two weeks in Tucson and accompanied her on the plane. "She's a very gentle person, and her personality is coming out with touches. ... I'm very lucky to know her."

Kelly, Doctors Share Details of Giffords' Improbable Progress

Giffords' husband, Kelly, who lives in Houston, said Thursday that the congresswoman soon would be "back at work" and predicted she would be walking around in a couple of weeks.

"I'm extremely hopeful that Gabby will make a full recovery," he said. "She is a fighter like nobody else I know."

In another sign of progress, Giffords was taken outside Thursday for the first time since the attack to give her some sunlight. She stood up Wednesday for the first time with assistance and looked out of a hospital window.

Giffords already has been able to scroll through an iPad, one of the actions described by her doctors as "fantastic achievements forward."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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