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Good news from space: Gabrielle Giffords doing "really well" after skull surgery

Astronaut Mark Kelly says an operation on his wife’s skull has gone successfully – from the International Space Station.

Commander Mark Kelly, centre, displays Gabrielle Giffords' wedding ring as he is flanked by other officers aboard the International Space Station during a live interview earlier today.
Commander Mark Kelly, centre, displays Gabrielle Giffords' wedding ring as he is flanked by other officers aboard the International Space Station during a live interview earlier today.
Image: PBS / YouTube

IT’S A MIRACLE of human engineering and achievement in more ways than one: the US has been told that the wounded Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering after successful surgery to replace a portion of her skull – by her husband, currently on a mission to the International Space Station.

In an interview with PBS NewsHour, commander Mark Kelly said that his injured wife was doing “really well” after the surgery, performed late yesterday, which also attempted to install a permanent tube to drain fluid from her head.

Kelly – who is wearing his wife’s wedding ring around his neck during the 17-day mission – said he had also spoken to Giffords’ chief of staff and his twin brother Scott, also an astronaut, to keep in touch as the surgery was ongoing.

The surgery marks an important milestone in the road to recovery for Giffords, who was shot at point blank range while holding a ‘Congress on your Corner’ event on January 8 in an attack that killed six others.

The ceramic prosthesis is intended to replace the section of Giffords’ skull that was removed shortly after her shooting, which the Los Angeles Times explains was removed to avoid her brain being squeezed as it continued to swell.

The chief surgeon who performed the operation said that bone cells would naturally deposit on the pores of the implant and that, within two years, the ceramic prosthesis would have become fully integrated with the rest of her natural skull.

USNews adds that the surgery will not impact on Giffords’ neurological condition. Politico reported that Giffords was anxious to have the surgery carried out, having been forced to wear a helmet over the affected part of her head since the surgery to remove the damaged portion.

The shunt embedded in Giffords will allow drainage through a small hole behind her ear – but which is designed to drain fluid elsewhere to be absorbed naturally by the rest of her body, and which will not be visible from outside it.

Kelly was the intended recipient of the Endeavour shuttle’s first wake-up call on its current tour, with mission control in Houston playing U2′s Beautiful Day to him and the other five members of the crew.

The mission being led by Kelly, the 134th in NASA’s Space Shuttle programme, is the last for the Endeavour shuttle and the second-last of the programme entirely.

Previously: Endeavour shuttle docks at International Space Station >

Watch: Endeavour shuttle launches for final space mission >

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Gavan Reilly

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