A Good Day Can Mean Different Things

Sobering piece on the Giffords recovery that hopefully will tamp down the optimism to more reasonable levels. I think the piece did a good job explaining that when the doctors say something, in their vernacular it might mean something much, much different than what it means to the rest of us. A good day, by their standards, may be starting to barely utter a phonetic that has eluded Giffords to date.

On the third page, the piece described music therapy, so I did some googling of the therapist mentioned and found this video clip demonstrating what exactly is done in music therapy. Pretty fascinating stuff, and at the same time, should illustrate just how severely damaged Giffords was by this attack. For some reason, I have this feeling that people expect her to just show up at the shuttle launch and be her same vivacious self, and that just isn’t going to happen. I think people are going to be shocked when Giffords finally comes into the public eye again.

The whole situation is sad, and I personally wish that they had let the cameras in from day one to chronicle just how awful gun violence is, and what can be done to a human being by some young punk in a split second to a wonderful human being. But that is just an obscene request, and no one in their right mind would allow that kind of violation of their privacy.

Our gun laws are just insane. But, I guess, not much more insane than the rest of the really stupid and destructive things we do.

46 replies
  1. 1
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Our gun laws are just insane.

    Insane gun laws don’t kill people. Insane people do.

  2. 2
    Lee Hartmann says:

    I’ll take my chances with an insane person with a knife and not a gun.

  3. 3
    Louise says:

    Good post, John. I’m a music therapist (now a professor of MT) and worked with TBI survivors for 8 years. The effects of, and recovery from, a TBI are different for each person and difficult to explain in news clips or short articles. I’ve been watching this coverage, shaking my head, knowing that most people probably couldn’t read between the lines to know how bad it is.

    I also know the music therapists at TIRR and they’re terrific — but I hated the one news report in which one demonstrated using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” For the most part, MT-BCs* will use “age-appropriate” music to cue their clients/patients. Of course, if a childhood song is what works, we’ll obviously use it — but it’s just as likely that a song like “You’ve Got A Friend” will be as powerful. (“Friend” at the end of the chorus was the first word for a patient of mine as she came out of her coma.)

    *board-certified music therapists

  4. 4
    MattR says:

    No video (or link) of the therapist (which I still say as “the rapist” ala Sean Connery in the SNL Jeopardy skit).

    I have to forward this article (and the video) on to my sister who just got her Phd in physical therapy specializing in neurological issues (which also means she is probably already familiar with all of this)

  5. 5
    aimai says:

    I agree with you, John. Americans are absolutely anesthetized about gun violence–they see so much meaningless bang bang on TV from which the good guys always escape. Its not that the violence makes people more violent–though it may, but that it gives the ordinary person this illusion that, as my toddler once said “the real people don’t die” and the real people don’t have their lives permanently interrupted by brain damage and trauma. Just look at the way shootings are handled on any popular TV show. By rights, given the firepower being used, entire houses should be demolished. There should be nothing left of the bodies involved but shreds of meat–and that should be seen to happen at fairly large distances from the shooter. But instead of being faced with the real results of gun violence the viewers are shown chaste pictures of mere scratches, or demure images of neat bullet holes while the good guys dodge the rain of bullets.

    Gabrielle Giffords was shot point blank in the head. She is no more going to leap back into her old life from that than the many soldiers with IED concussions are. Her friends aren’t doing her any harm in continuing to pursue the vain hope that she can re-enter politics, but they aren’t doing the country any good either.


  6. 6
    John Cole says:

    @MattR: Sorry, it is there now.

  7. 7
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Maybe this ghoulish talk about her running for Senate can stop. This isn’t a Lifetime movie.

    I certainly hope all of the happy talk does come true, as do all decent people. I just wish her recovery weren’t a political story.

  8. 8
    Maude says:

    Bob Woodruff had serious brain injury.
    He talks about it and that when he became aware, he was so glad to be alive.
    The doctor said that Congresswoman Giffords understand what is said to her. That is huge.
    The mechanics of speech are slow to come back.
    I don’t care if she doesn’t return to Congress.
    She’s alive and that’s what counts.
    The media did play up the killer in a lurid way. Palin and her nonsense took away from how awful shootings are to those who are shot and their loved ones.

  9. 9
    Softail says:

    Yeah, not a doctor but have worked in a hospital all my adult life so I know doctor speak. Also a biker with friends that survived brain injuries. There seem to be a lot of unlikely expectations out there and people don’t get how devastating a brain injury is.

  10. 10
    James says:

    I read the piece. I didn’t see anything that contradicts what I’ve intuited from the media. Yes, she is horribly disabled, and will be for some time. But I cannot believe that when she eventually learns of the totality of the violence that day, that she would let anyone keep her from finishing her job. Who is going to make to decision to tell her Jared Laughner can keep her from serving the country? I cannot believe that she would stand down and become a validating force for shooting politicians. I refuse to believe that no matter how long it takes, that it would be her wish to fade into the background and avoid the maybe impossible decisions necessary to keep Jared Laughner and the assholes like him from winning. Especially the people who helped him think that shooting politicians is the way to be a successful American.

  11. 11

    What happened to this poor woman is so sad that whenever I think of it, I zoom past rage and straight into mute melancholy. It’s just terrible.

  12. 12
    bleh says:

    Our gun laws are just insane. But, I guess, not much more insane than the rest of the really stupid and destructive things we do.

    Why do libruls hate our freedoms so much?

    Also, we need to cut taxes.

  13. 13
    OzoneR says:

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, so lets give people guns

  14. 14
    mcd410x says:

    People need to be shocked. Maybe it will wake some of them up.

    Oh, dang it, I can dream, can’t I?

  15. 15
    Major Mel Funkshun says:

    Guns don’t kill people, unless you bash somebody over the head with one. Bullets kill people, every fricking day.

  16. 16
    MobiusKlein says:

    John, you can put it in writing now – if you are ever recovering from a traumatic gun injury, you direct folks to make public as much of your recovery as is possible.


  17. 17
    Nemo_N says:

    If only everyone had a gun…

  18. 18
    Calouste says:

    There was a shooting in the Netherlands over the weekend (probably didn’t make the news in the US), which left six people dead.

    As you would expect in a saner part of the world, the local version of the NRA didn’t call for laxer gun laws so that people could defend themselves (only about 1 in 1,000 Dutch have a gun license anyway), but stated that the killer shouldn’t have been issued a gun license because he had shown mental issues in the past. Imagine that coming from the NRA.

  19. 19
    opie jeanne says:

    @MobiusKlein: I actually considered doing that myself when I read John’s post. Sounds silly, but that’s what ran through my head.

  20. 20
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    When I see news about Giffords, my thoughts can’t help from go to a shithead objectivist acquaintance of mine who said in the immediate aftermath that she deserved it, because, y’know, she’s a part of Teh Big Gummint, and voting for health care reform obviously means you deserve to get shot in the fucking head.

    We are a nation of psychopaths. Ayn Rand’s death cult is the most vile philosophical movement to sweep this country since McCarthyism.

  21. 21
    capt says:

    If someone asked me if there should be a lethal device that can end a life by pushing a button – available to nearly anybody – I’d surely think the question was insane. Of course not. But isn’t that trigger just like a button.

    I do not really trust the military or all of law enforcement with push button lethality – I sure as heck don’t trust my fellow civilians.

    I also do not see the connection to hunting. If a person is hunting with a pistol their game is likely human.

    When is enough enough?


  22. 22
    Chris says:

    No, John, the sad part is going to be when Giffords has a group of people advising her about a Senate run in 2012 (or 2016), and someone wearing shoes that cost more than you or I make in a week says, “Now, I know this is a personal issue for you, but if you say anything good about gun control, you’ll be lucky to get 42% of the vote.”

  23. 23
    rollSound says:


    [Dutch NRA-equivalent] stated that the killer shouldn’t have been issued a gun license because he had shown mental issues in the past. Imagine that coming from the NRA.

    I can’t. Insane people are too large a bloc in that organization.

  24. 24
    Tim, Interrupted says:

    What’s with all this “we” bullshit?

    And I think it would have been awesome for Gifford’s husband to ok video documentation of her wounds and recovery from day one. I get the feeling she’d be cool with it too.

    It’s not an invasion of privacy if the subject ok’s it.

    For the same reasons, I wish we had 24/7, graphic video coverage of the horrendous wounds and recoveries endured by soldier/survivors of the Bush/Obama wars.

  25. 25
    slag says:

    Music is fascinating since it connects so many parts of our brains. Currently in the process of reading This is your Brain on Music. Am excited to read Tom Levenson’s Measure for Measure. And of course, the obligatory link to the ever-so-awesome RadioLab’s Musical Language.

    Nonetheless, that Giffords video made me sad.

  26. 26
    fraught says:

    I don’t think we’ll be seeing Giffords until the night she walks onstage next year at the Dem National Convention to second Obama’s nomination.

  27. 27
    p mac says:

    From the newsweek article:
    “Let’s say that she’s 90 percent [recovered],” says Mike McNulty, Giffords’s last campaign chairman. “Well, we’ve had congressmen in Arizona who didn’t even have a brain. So, it’s not like you have to be as talented as she is to be good at it.”


  28. 28
    moops says:


    oh, that would be such a crappy suckfest. The Dem machine milking hoots. People’s feelings of happiness for her recovery transferred to their brand.

  29. 29
    jewelbomb says:

    In related news, the AZ house passed a bill last week that allows guns on college campuses. Fuck I hate living in this god-forsaken dirt patch.


  30. 30
    virag says:

    and sometimes when a doctor says lucky to be alive, it’s not quite what you think either. that said, good for her; life is hope, and shit.

  31. 31

    […] Via Balloon Juice this news segment from Houston about a patient at the same medical center where Giffords is currently receiving treatment recovering from multiple strokes and the role of music therapy in his (and others) recovery. […]

  32. 32
    bago says:

    The damage to survivors of random public shootings continues for years. Fuckers.

  33. 33
    Tim, Interrupted says:


    I don’t think we’ll be seeing Giffords until the night she walks onstage next year at the Dem National Convention to second Obama’s nomination

    And gosh, that wouldn’t be cheesy and exploitative at all now, would it?

  34. 34
    Elliecat says:

    chronicle just how awful gun violence is, and what can be done to a human being by some young punk in a split second

    Gosh, anyone remember James Brady? I remember seeing lots of stuff in the 80s, maybe after, about the results of his getting shot in the head. Hell, I remember watching footage of him lying face down, bleeding on the sidewalk from the hole in his forehead while someone held him and waited for help. I remember seeing TV stories showing his struggles to regain functions, his anger at what had happened, his frustration at trying to do something resembling the work he’d done all his adult life, and at being unable to control emotions, just a lot of very wrenching stuff. I never got the sense that anyone but people who already supported gun control were moved at all by his situation or Sarah Brady’s efforts toward gun control legislation. Everyone else much preferred Reagan’s jokey, no big deal it’s only a chest wound, attitude about his own GSW.

    So I tend to think more graphic coverage of Giffords’ recovery would actually turn more people against her—God, how depressing, we don’t need this, why’d she have to incite someone to shoot her so we have to keep having this depressing stuff on TV, etc. If people can believe she’s going to be okay, they can quit thinking about her and get back to reality TV.

  35. 35
    josefina says:

    @James: What the hell are you babbling about? Whatever you’ve “intuited,” Giffords may never be capable of resuming the responsibilities of congressional representative. Your pretending to know what she would think and do is more than a little creepy.

  36. 36
    fraught says:

    @Tim, Interrupted:

    And gosh, that wouldn’t be cheesy and exploitative at all now, would it?

    You could expect Mrs. Palin to say that it was particularly exploitative of the handicapped. They wheeled Christopher Reeves out at the ’96 convention and Clinton got re-elected.
    Not saying it’s a good idea but someone, somewhere in Washington is trying to figure out how to make it happen.

  37. 37
    gizmo says:

    My notion is that way too many American men have no heroic role to live out. They are emasculated, pathetic little things who don’t bring home the bacon for the family anymore, they are out of shape, they suffer from low self-esteem, and their peckers shriveled up a long time ago. Thus, they adore guns and drive hummers and loud motorcycles and do whatever it takes to prop up their inadequate self image.

  38. 38
    somegayname says:

    @Lee Hartmann: Good luck with that

  39. 39
    Wolfdaughter says:

    @p mac:

    Thanks, p mac. I really needed a good laugh. Unfortunately, it’s so true! My own rep, Grijalva, is terrific, but our two senators…and our governor…and the majority of the lege, oy!

  40. 40
    trollhattan says:

    HBO into the, uh, breech, Wednesday. Should stir up some…wingnut cancellations.


    It’s gotten to the point we can’t even are not allowed to discuss the fact that guns, especially handguns, are primarily designed to kill people and other critters and have become damn good at it.

    Freedom! Wolverines!

    My heart aches for Congresswoman Giffords and moreso the families of those who didn’t get the chance for rehab.

  41. 41
    priscianus jr says:

    “Everyone around her needs to understand, hey, this is a different situation,” says music therapist Meagan Morrow, who is working with Giffords. “After you have a brain injury, you are a different person. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
    . . . . . . . .

    “We joke around, and I tell her all the funny things that happen in Washington, and she laughs,” says Pia Carusone, Giffords’s chief of staff. “When we say her personality is there, I mean, she’s like 100 percent there.”

  42. 42
    kerFuFFler says:

    Perhaps as time goes on, Giffords and her family will decide to put aside their preference for privacy—-I’m not sure that the elapsed time will make the story less compelling about the need for better gun control.

    Similarly, if Bristol really wants to help keep teens from getting pregnant she can waive her privacy—-perhaps a show and tell about stretch marks! How would that be for a “serious conversation”?

  43. 43
    Jebediah says:

    I hate that shit in movies and on TV – someone gets shot and they are all stoic and manly, maybe sucking some air through their teeth and grimacing a little. I have never been shot, but my guess is it is more like when Tim Roth (I think) got shot in Reservoir Dogs and spent a long time screaming in agony. Maybe more representations like that would calm some of our romance with firearms.
    Aah, probably not.

  44. 44
    LosGatosCA says:

    Really stupid and destructive.

    America’s motto since the Clinton impeachment.

    And you aint seen nothing yet. The country is getting really stupider and more destructiver by the minute.

    On the plus side, sharia law is being routed all over present day Nixonland!

    Lead chips for everyone.

  45. 45
    Mandramas says:

    I don’t understand why the Giffords incidents was dropped from any serious discussion on America after a month or so. Even there, it is a lone mention in, like a month. She should have become a permanent symbol on American thought, but she was quickly forgotten. American liberal’s as a whole, needs a spine as much as Obama does.

  46. 46
    wenchacha says:

    Be nice if people were also bashed over their heads (to further the brain injury issue) with how much time and money and human effort it takes to help someone back from a serious brain injury. You don’t just pull yourself up by your fucking bootstraps and teach yourself to speak, read, use the bathroom by yourself again.

    Does that effort require dollars. Ohmygawd yes it does. Is the cost overwhelming for the average non-millionaire without decent insurance, so just about everybody? Yes! Watch Jason Crigler’s story if there is any doubt. http://www.lifesupportmusic.org/film.html

    Stuff like this is why the Catfood Commission and Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, Gov. Walker et al are ruinous to our country. I don’t want to lowball the doc, nurses, therapists and others who help Giffords rehab. I don’t want to have a million bake sales in order to help Gramma recover from her stroke.

    I want to scream at every self-righteous serious adult prick who is so concerned NOW about the deficit, and never batted an eyelash at it back when GW and Lord Voldemort were raiding every last dollar we had to fund not one, but two wars, making them both unwinnable.

    Share this sacrifice, assholes

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  1. […] Via Balloon Juice this news segment from Houston about a patient at the same medical center where Giffords is currently receiving treatment recovering from multiple strokes and the role of music therapy in his (and others) recovery. […]

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