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Congresswoman May Owe Life to Luck and 'Battlefield Lessons'

I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Health Report, from | On January eighth in Tucson, Arizona, a gunman opened fire on a small crowd meeting outdoors with a congresswoman. Six people were killed and fourteen were wounded, including the representative, Gabrielle Giffords. The bullet traveled along the left side of her brain as it went in one side of her head and came out the other. Doctor Leigh Vinocur is a nationally known expert in emergency medicine. She says the path that the bullet took was lucky for the forty-year-old congresswoman. On January eleventh doctors said Representative Giffords was breathing without the aid of a machine. But she remained in critical condition. Doctor Vinocur praised the college intern who gave the congresswoman first aid. Daniel Hernandez had trained in high school as a nurse's assistant. But Doctor Vinocur says people have to be extra careful about putting pressure on bleeding head wounds.She said you can put pressure on the scalp to reduce the bleeding. But you want to be careful to make sure you're not pushing brain tissue or pieces of bone or metal back in through the hole. Doctor Peter Rhee, trauma chief at the University Medical Center in Tucson, says he expects Representative Giffords to survive. She has been following simple commands, like moving her toes, squeezing a hand and giving the thumbs-up sign. But no one knows yet how well she might recover. Doctors have temporarily removed about half of her skull to ease pressure. Doctor Rhee operated on the congresswoman and also treated other victims of the shooting attack. He says his work as a Navy surgeon in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prepared him well. In fact, emergency medicine specialist Leigh Vinocur says that specialty grew out of military medicine dating back to World War One. She says there has been great success in saving people in recent wars. Doctor Vinocur teaches at the University of Maryland medical school and speaks for the American College of Emergency Medicine.The young suspect charged in the shooting had been acting strangely. Last year he was suspended from a community college because of his behavior. But he was legally able to buy the handgun used in the shooting. For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. You can get transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our shows at You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 12Jan2011)
Length: 04:03


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