Today Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's chief of staff Pia Carusone gave the most forthcoming update yet on her medical state. As the tidbits fed to the media have suggested, she's doing remarkably well — for someone who suffered such a devastating injury. However, Carusone's comments seem to confirm that as we suspected, it's incredibly unlikely that she'll be able to run for office in 2012.
Patients with injuries like Giffords' make the biggest improvements they'll ever make in the first 12 to 14 months, so it's too soon to predict what her recovery will look like. She's able to communicate with those around her, but still struggles to express herself. Carusone explains:
"She is borrowing upon other ways of communicating. Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing. Add it all together, and she's able to express the basics of what she wants or needs. But, when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that's where she's had the trouble."
Since she can't fully communicate, it's hard to assess her mental state, but it's believed that her comprehension is "close to normal, if not normal." She's required to file paper to run of office by May 2012, and since she's only beginning to consider releasing a photo of herself, it seems unlikely that she'll be ready to face the press and endure the pressures of campaigning by that time. Not to mention that there's a good chance she isn't even interested in resuming her political career.
It seems Giffords can't escape the political speculation, but all we really should be focusing on is being thankful that she's doing as well as she is. When asked to give an overall assessment of her situation, Carusone said:
"She's living. She's alive. But if she were to plateau today, and this was as far as she gets, it would not be nearly the quality of life she had before ...There's no comparison. All that we can hope for is that she won't plateau today and that she'll keep going and that when she does plateau, it will be at a place far away from here."
Gabrielle Giffords Isn't Close To Returning To Work [Arizona Republic]