I will admit I am following Representative Gifford’s progress closely, listening for any morsel of news about her progress, especially in the language area. I hadn’t even heard of her before the shooting but my heart goes out to her and her family and it is my prayer that she will have a full and speedy recovery.
My interest is two-fold. First,I have a sister-in-law who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a serious car accident 30 years ago and our family traveled the rehabilitation route with her as she uttered her first word, “Ouch” after 3 months in a coma and learned to talk and walk again. Secondly, as a speech and language therapist, I am interested (and hopeful) in Gabrielle Gifford’s recovery since the bullet passed through the left side of her brain where the center is for language.
News has been sparse about her recovery, but yesterday’s article in the New York Times, “Gifford’s Personality Is Shining Through In Recovery, Doctors Say” had a few comments about her language progress. Her doctors now are saying that she is “making leaps and bounds” in her neurological recovery. Her memory, cognitive level and attention span are reported as good which will help in her recovery. It was reported that doctors recently removed her tracheotomy tube which had prevented her from speaking. According to the article,
“ ‘She is clearly saying what she wants,” said Dr. Dong Kim, director of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “She is starting to string words together. She can repeat anything we say to her; that’s an important neurological recovery fact. It means her primary language area is intact. She can speak in full sentences. She says, ‘I’m tired. I want to go bed,’ just like that. And we can have a conversation with her.”
This is clearly good news that she is putting sentences together and apparently saying things that are appropriate to the situation. What was left out in the account was, is she able to generate novel sentences, not just more “automatic” ones such as “I’m tired. I want to go to bed.” which we use often and are more easily recalled than putting together a novel sentence in a situation such as discussing what you liked about a book you read.
I love that her personality is coming through and she is laughing. I wish Gabrielle Giffords and her family and team of professionals the best and will be listening for more signs of progress in her language recovery.