Gabrielle Giffords is breathing on her own, doctors say.
Gabrielle Giffords is breathing on her own, doctors say.

Gabrielle Giffords Breathing on Her Own, Doctors Report

Doctors treating Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said this morning that the congresswoman is now breathing on her own after a bullet, allegedly fired by 22-year-old Jared Loughner, went through her brain.

Giffords remains in critical condition, and her breathing tube has not been removed, but doctors say she's "holding her own" following Saturday's shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded.

"She is able to follow simple commands. She is breathing on her own," Michael Lemole, University Medical Center's chief of neurosurgery, says. "The only reason we keep that breathing tube in is to protect her airway."

Doctors say the bullet entered Giffords' skull from the front and exited through the back, passing through only the left side of her brain, which is contrary to initial reports that she was shot in the back of the head.

The greatest threat still is brain swelling, the doctors say, which can be seen up to 10 days after a severe brain injury. Usually, they say, the worst of the swelling occurs within three days of the injury, which would be today.

To prevent Giffords' brain from essentially crushing itself if it were to swell, the doctors have removed a portion of her skull, which may not be put back in place for months.

Given the circumstances, doctors say they remain optimistic.

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