Soldiers With Similar Injuries Cheer On Giffords

Updated 8:38 p.m. EST

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' chief physician says she is "even more alert today" and progressing nicely with therapy a day after arriving at Texas Medical Center in Houston to begin rehabilitation.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Gerard Francisco said the Arizona congresswoman did not speak or make any sounds when he examined her on Saturday.

That could be because Giffords still has a breathing tube. He said it is too soon to say whether she can or will be able to talk.

On Jan. 21, Gabrielle Giffords' transition from University Medical Center in Arizona to a rehabilitation facility in Houston went flawlessly, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook.

Congresswoman Giffords was accompanied to Houston by her husband, mother and members of her Tucson medical team.

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Where will she end up? We don't know.

Dr. John Holcomb, retired army colonel, will help lead her treatment team here in Houston.

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What we do know is that starting intensive rehabilitation earlier will end up with a higher level of functioning later.

Giffords will have to overcome a very serious wound that penetrated the left hemisphere of the brain, the area controlling vision, speech, information processing, and personality. But neurologists are learning that damaged parts of the brain can actually 'borrow' function from healthy areas.

The brain clearly does re-wire itself, it's called plasticity, so it actually is able to respond in different ways. Clearly people with severe brain injuries can re-learn how to function, speak, move to a certain degree.

First, doctors will thoroughly evaluate Giffords, then design a plan that could include therapy for speech, walking and the basic functions of daily life.

It might even include groundbreaking virtual reality systems that allow patients to practice living in a safe, simulated environment.

As Giffords was leaving Tucson, patients at this TIRR branch in Galveston were immersed in challenging and often tedious therapy -- tiny steps to relearn the simplest of skills.

TIRR Foundation

Kenny Adams, 29, was blinded after being shot through the head in Afghanistan seven years ago. Before rehab, he couldn't walk and his speech was badly slurred.

"The bullet came in through my right cheek and exited thru my right forehead," said soldier Kenny Adams.

Soldiers at the facility know what Giffords may face -- each did rehab at TIRR.

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"It's hard, I am not going to lie to you," said Adams. "There are some days I get really frustrated."

"It's very tough -- just lots of work," said Steve Schulz.

Schulz, 26, suffered a brain injury from a roadside bombing in Iraq. After five years of therapy, he has this advice for Congresswomen Giffords:

"Keep your head up, where it needs to be. Keep looking forward because that's where you're going," said Schulz.

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The two are courageous young men and a great example for the Congresswoman as she fights to recover in the months to come.