The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says 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' impressive progress in recovering from a bullet wound to the head after being shot at point-blank range at a political event outside a supermarket 10 days ago. Giffords still cannot speak, because of a breathing tube in her throat.
"She's in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage," Kelly explained in an ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer to air today. "It's so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, 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," Dr. Michael Lemole said of the congresswoman.
Dr. Randall Friese said Kelly also told doctors that he saw his wife smile. Friese said that sometimes people see what they want to see but that "if he says she's smiling, I buy it."
Kelly has also been essential in helping Giffords' staff through the tragedy, said Mark Kimble, a staffer who stood a few feet from the congresswoman when she was shot.
"There is not a doubt in his mind and not a doubt in any of our minds that she's going to be back," Kimble said. "[Kelly has] been cheering us up. He'll come over, and when we're down, he'll say, 'Gabby's going to make it, Gabby's a little better today.' That's a big help to all of us."
Doctors upgraded Giffords' condition from critical to serious over the weekend and say they carried out three successful procedures that demonstrate that she is recovering well. A breathing tube was moved from her mouth to her throat along with a separate feeding tube that was shifted from her nose to her stomach.
Doctors also said they performed surgery on Giffords' eye socket to remove bone fragments to relieve pressure on her eye. There were no complications from the surgery; doctors needed to perform the eye procedure all along but waited until her condition improved.
In other developments:
*Doctors have transplanted the corneas from the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shooting that left a total of six people dead and 13 wounded. Christina Taylor Green's father said Monday that the Donor Network of Arizona told him and his wife that the transplants from the 9-year-old have saved the eyesight of two children.
*More details emerged about one of the shooting victims who became distraught and was arrested during a televised town hall-style meeting.
James E. Fuller, a military veteran and self-described liberal, started ranting at the end of the program Saturday. He took a picture of Tucson tea party leader Trent Humphries and yelled, "You're dead."
Fuller apologized Monday through his girlfriend, Dorothy Deruyter. He has been in a hospital since being involuntarily committed Saturday for a mental health evaluation but wrote a statement and called Deruyter, who read it to the Associated Press on Monday.
*Kelly said he would be willing to meet with the parents of suspect Jared L. Loughner. They have stayed secluded.
*Americans overwhelmingly describe the tone of political discourse in the country as negative, verging on angry, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, but more than half say that the culture did not contribute to the shootings in Tucson. Evaluations of President Obama's handling of the Jan. 8 tragedy are highly positive across the political spectrum, with nearly 8 in 10 giving him high marks for his response to the incident.
*Federal law enforcement officials have recovered "reams of videotape" recorded from surveillance cameras at the Safeway shopping center in Tucson where the shooting occurred. The video, they said, "leaves no doubt" about how the gunman methodically went about killing and wounding his victims.