TUCSON, Ariz. — The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Monday that his wife's condition has improved so much that she has been able to smile and give him a neck rub as he has kept a near-constant vigil at her hospital bedside.
The interactions with astronaut Mark Kelly are new signs of Giffords' progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head at a political event on Jan. 8. Giffords still cannot speak because of a tube in her throat that is helping her breathe.
"She's in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage," Kelly said in an interview with Diane Sawyer to air today on ABC. "It's so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she's looking out for other people."
Such encounters indicate higher levels of functioning, implying that "she's recognizing him and interacting, perhaps in an old familiar way with him," said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
Doctors upgraded Giffords' condition from critical to serious over the weekend.
The suspect in the shooting, Jared Loughner, 22, remained jailed in a federal lockup in Phoenix.