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January 14th, 2011
10:45 AM ET

Tucson: Heroes amidst the horror

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Editor's note: In an interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Ron Barber describes in chilling detail how he was shot alongside his boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Gupta also spoke to Giffords' husband, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly. For more from them, other victims and the medical team caring for them, tune in to a special "SGMD," Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET

(CNN) - At University Medical Center in Tucson, four patients remain in the hospital. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is now the only one in critical condition.

Outside, there is a constantly busy makeshift memorial, even in the middle of the night. Television and newspaper reporters are buzzing around, trying to satisfy the appetite of a curious public. There is so much attention on these four patients, that it was somewhat surprising that they hardly know it. Most of them have cut themselves off and barely watched any news reports, or even visited with other victims down the hall.

I was allowed to meet with the patients at UMC, as they decided to speak for the very first time. It became clear within moments that as much as I wanted to record their stories, they needed – they wanted to talk even more.

Ron Barber was the first patient I met. Kindly, softspoken, he welcomed me in with a smile and introduced me to his wife, Nancy. For 40 years, Ron had worked as an advocate for those with developmental disabilities, and he had retired before coming to work as a staff member for Congresswoman Giffords.

It was jarring when he started to describe the horrible scene that unfolded. He heard the noise and saw Giffords take a bullet in the head. As he spun around toward the shooter, he also was shot, first in the face and then in the leg.

He slumped to the ground and found himself lying right next to Giffords, who had her back to him. As he struggled to make sense of it all, suddenly their colleague, Gabe Zimmerman, fell face-first right between them. “He was so still,” he told me. “I knew he was dead.”

Full story on The Chart blog


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Sanjay Gupta
January 14th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
January 10th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Gupta: What helped Giffords survive brain shot

Editor's note: CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing trauma neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

(CNN) - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in critical condition on a ventilator after being shot through the back of the left side of her head, yet doctors are “cautiously optimistic” about her survival. That she is alive at all is surprising to many people, but people survive these types of injuries more often than you may think.

While every patient and injury is different, on average – around 2/3 of patients with a gunshot wound (GSW) to the head don’t live long enough to make it to the hospital. Of the third that do make it, only 50% of those patients survive longer than 30 days. And of course, those numbers say nothing of long-term neurological function in the survivors.

So far, according to her doctors, Giffords is likely to be in the small minority of patients who will beat the odds. So, what placed those odds in her favor?

First off, she received very quick care, and was in the operating room within 38 minutes after arriving at the hospital. Her overall health and youth also provide some benefit. The injury was a “through and through” injury, meaning there was both an entry and exit wound. That’s significant because some of the energy of the bullet was dissipated into space, as opposed to all within her cranial cavity.

Neurosurgeons will want to know if the bullet passed across the midline of the brain. If it does, there is a much poorer likelihood of survival. In Giffords' case, it did not. Other positive factors: Her blood pressure didn't drop as a result of the bleeding, and the oxygen supply in her body was maintained, according to her doctors that I interviewed.

Finally, the fact Giffords was “following commands” even before she had an operation was a very positive sign.

Full story on the Chart blog


Filed under: 360° Radar • Sanjay Gupta
January 6th, 2011
11:15 AM ET
December 28th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Extreme Living: Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek keeps going

Editor's Note: Find out more about ultramarathon runners in “The Distance of Truth.”


Filed under: Sanjay Gupta
December 24th, 2010
11:30 AM ET
December 23rd, 2010
10:45 AM ET
December 23rd, 2010
10:00 AM ET
December 22nd, 2010
10:45 AM ET
December 22nd, 2010
10:00 AM ET
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