Sharing hope: ABC’s Bob Woodruff on Gabrielle Giffords and recovery from traumatic brain injury

In 2006, ABC news reporter Bob Woodruff was on the ground covering the war in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated near the vehicle in which he was traveling. The shockwave drove rock and shrapnel into his helmet, literally rattling his brain inside his skull.

Woodruff awoke more than a month later, only to begin a long road to recovery. His journey is one that is shared by an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 Americans each year who suffer traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

It was a long road to recovery for Woodruff, who is now back on the job and has actually returned to Iraq to meet with those who saved his life. He discussed some of the similar circumstances involved in his recovery to the road Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now traveling.

It is hard to remember how I felt at that very moment when my life changed in an instant. Although I had covered wars for years as a journalist I never really thought about death, let alone traumatic brain injuries.

I didn’t know Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords but my assumption is she never imagined that a gunshot would put her where she is either.

Like the doctors who saved me almost five years ago, her surgeons knew exactly what to do. Her brain was swelling just like mine. They removed part of her skull on the left side of her head almost exactly like mine, and she is now in a drug-induced coma so that her brain can recover. For me it was 36 days before I woke up.

But in one way her case is more hopeful. She responded to verbal commands by the doctors and reacted by squeezing their finger, indicating she understood, although she could not speak. I never heard the words and never squeezed my doctors’ fingers when they tried to get me to respond.

So now Ms. Giffords’ family and friends are on the long or short road. When she awakes, which I believe will happen, we will know about her future. No one really knows right now how long that road will be.

Here is an interview with Woodruff:


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Gay Intern Helped Save The Life Of Gabrielle Giffords

Daniel Hernandez Jr., an openly gay 20-year-old intern for Gabrielle Giffords, is being credited with saving the congresswoman's life.

Daniel Hernandez, who confirmed that he is gay in an interview with Instant Tea on Sunday morning, is a member of the City of Tucson Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. “She’s been a great ally to the LGBT community,” Hernandez said of Giffords during the brief interview across a bad connection.

According to the Arizona Republic, Hernandez was standing about 30 feet from Giffords during the “Congress on Your Corner” event outside a Safeway store near Tucson. When the gunshots began, Hernandez ran toward them and began checking the pulses of people who’d been hit. When Hernandez got to Giffords, he used his hand to apply pressure to the entry wound on her forehead.  He pulled her into his lap and held her upright so she wouldn’t choke on her blood.

Hernandez, who has experience in triage, spoke to Christiane Amanpour this morning about his immediate instincts right after the shooting. ABC News reports:

"When this happened, I kind of just shut off all emotion because I knew I wouldn't be any good to anyone if I had a breakdown," Hernendez remembered. "I had to lift up the congresswoman because she was severely injured, and I wanted to make sure that she was able to breathe okay because there was so much blood." Hernendez used smocks from the grocery store to bandage the wounded victims.

"The congresswoman was alert. She was able to hold my hand when I asked her if she could hear me," said Hernendez. "I wasn't able to get any words from her. She may have been trying, but because of the way that I was having to hold her it was a lot easier to just 'if you can hear me Gabby just grab my hand to let me know that you're okay.'"

Hernandez had only been an intern for Representative Giffords for only five days.


Towleroad News #gay

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Gay Latino Hero: Daniel Hernandez, Jr. saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life

Daniel Hernandez, Jr. was the right man in the right place at the right time.  Just five days into his internship for Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, the 20-year old college student was checking people into Rep. Gifford’s “Congress on Your Corner” event when the shooting started.

According to Arizona Republic, Hernandez started assisting victims before the shooting even stopped.

When the shots began that morning, he saw many people lying on the ground, including a young girl. Some were bleeding. Hernandez said he moved from person to person checking pulses.

“First the neck, then the wrist,” he said. One man was already dead. Then he saw Giffords. She had fallen and was lying contorted on the sidewalk. She was bleeding.

Using his hand, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on her forehead. He pulled her into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. [snip]

Hernandez used his hand to apply pressure until someone from inside Safeway brought him clean smocks from the meat department. He used them to apply pressure on the entrance wound, unaware there was an exit wound. He never let go of her.

He stayed with Giffords until paramedics arrived. They strapped her to a board and loaded her into an ambulance. Hernandez climbed in with her. On the ride to the hospital, he held her hand. She squeezed his back.

Hernandez’s immediate actions probably saved her life, a hospital physician said.

Daniel is a Latino man.  According to Dallas Voice, Daniel is also gay and a member of the City of Tucson Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

Like Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who helped thwart the plans of the 911 hijackers on Flight 93, and like the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender soldiers still serving in silence in our military under threat of expulsion, Daniel’s actions remind us that LGBT Americans are actively serving society.  A society that is over 90% heterosexual.

Like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez and Speaker of the California Assembly John Pérez, Daniel’s actions remind us that Latino Americans are actively serving society at large, a society that is 85% non-Latino.

Andr?s Duque from Blabbeando so beautifully encapsulates the significance of Daniel Hernandez’s actions to the Latino and LGBT communities:

Of course, from the accounts, Daniel is a hero regardless of whether he’s Latino or gay or Irish or purple.

But it’s striking that in a state that has unfortunately become a national standard-bearer for some of the worst xenophobic sentiments in the current political climate, it IS a Latino man who happens to be gay who decided to stay by Congresswoman’s Giffords’ side and might very well have saved her life.

I can’t help but be moved at how such a selfless gesture can cut straight through all those efforts to demonize Latinos – or gays – specially in light of recent events in Arizona.

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UPDATE: AZ U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords clears surgery after attempted assassination in Tucson

4:05 PM ET: From live presser re: AZ shooting – surgeon says he’s “as optimistic as he can be” about Giffords’ recovery (full recovery unclear). Surgery over. One child shot has died. Federal authorities identify the gunman as Jared Laughner of Arizona, born September 1988.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was hosting her first “Congress on Your Corner” at a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson when she and at least 12 people were shot.

This is the first female member of Congress targeted for assassination; Giffords is a member of the LGBT Caucus. From LGBTPOV:

This blogger notes that Gifford was on Sarah Palin’s political hit list for her support of healthcare reform. The blogger agrees and says: “I intend to do my part to help make her pay.”
“As those of us who follow Sarah Palin’s political activity are aware, the former Governor of Alaska has strongly recommended that We the People Take Back the 20 in the November elections. The 20 under discussion are legitimately vulnerable Democrats up for reelection to Congress this fall and who also live in voting districts that went for McCain/Palin in 2008. One of those Democrats is Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona’s District 8.

Gaby Giffords is also on my personal political hit list, primarily because Pam and I live in Cochise County, Arizona, which is part of District 8. We don’t appreciate our Representative going against our wishes and voting for Obama’s Health Care Deformed…and I intend to do my part to help make her pay.”

From CNN:

UPDATE: The right-wing blogger took his post down but here’s a screencap:

UPDATE #2: Sarah Palin has taken down a page from the SarahPAC website that showed Rep. Giffords and others targeted in Tea Party cross hairs.

Sarah Palin’s statement on her Facebook page: (be sure to check out the comments)

My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.

- Sarah Palin

Statement from the President:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_____________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 8, 2011

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.

We do not yet have all the answers.  What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.  I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.

UPDATE 3: Giffords interviewed recently about being “targeted”:

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“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but, the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted, has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”

 
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HRC Statement on Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Reacting to the tragic shooting involving U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  HRC President Joe Solmonese today released the following statement:

“We are shocked and saddened by the events involving Congresswoman Giffords and our hearts go out to her and the other victims of this awful tragedy.  Gabby Giffords is a champion for LGBT equality and a principled leader for Arizona.  We wish her a speedy recovery as our thoughts and prayers are with her family as well as with the families of all of those touched by today’s horrific violence.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is supporter of LGBT equality

There is extensive coverage about the shooting of Rep. Giffords, a federal judge (who died) and several others at AMERICAblog.com. Giffords is an LGBT ally in Congress. she voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (twice) and the Hate Crimes bill. The Washington Blade has more.

Arizona Progress
will have updates, too. There are vigils in Arizona and DC.

There’s an enormous amount of attention focused on Sarah Palin’s targeting of Giffords last year.

And, there’s this infamous tweet, which has apparently been deleted, but was captured by Scoot Wooledge:

Last March 25th, Giffords was on MSNBC after her office was vandalized. The Congresswoman talked about being on that targeted list of Sarah Palin, noting “the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.” Chuck Todd appeared to dismiss Giffords’ concern stating, “in the moment it may look bad.”

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AMERICAblog Gay

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Sarah Palin’s Rifle Crosshairs Targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords For Elimination

The mainstream media MUST DEMAND a response from Palin over this. I screamed my fucking head off about this map last year for just this reason.

Joe. My. God.

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Renee O’Connor film looks to add Facebook fans

Renee O'Connor in Beyond the Farthest Star
Actress Renee O’Connor and producer Benjamin Dane on location in Leonard, Texas, filming “Beyond the Farthest Star.”

Back in April, we published this interview with Renee O’Connor, the straight actor who earned herself an army of devoted lesbian fans with her role as the sweet and sexy Gabrielle on the TV series “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

O’Connor was, at the time of the interview, on location in Leonard, Texas — just northeast of Dallas — filming a movie called “Beyond the Farthest Star,” about a preacher, his wife, their daughter and the secrets they have been keeping. It’s not the kind of movie we would usually cover in Dallas Voice; there’s nothing LGBT-related in the storyline. But hey, I was a “Xena” fan, too, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview O’Connor. Plus, I know there are plenty of lesbians out there who still follow O’Connor’s career and would be interested in her latest venture.

This week, I got an e-mail from Benjamin Dane, a local actor who not only has a role in “Beyond the Farthest Star,” but is also one of the film’s producers. And he is once again reaching out to O’Connor’s lesbians fans to help get the word out about the movie:

“The new film, ‘Beyond the Farthest Star,’ starring Renee O’Connor is up to 3,400 fans on Facebook. In the last week, fan numbers have increased over 1,500. In an effort to spread the word about the film as it is in post production, we are setting a goal for 5,000 Facebook fans by Aug. 31. We need another 1,600 fans in nine days. I know Renee has a powerful fan base and I am hoping it can be rallied to help us reach our goal.”

He also noted that the movie’s website includes a “fan-driven demand/release” program called “Bring It,” where fans can, basically, vote to have the film screened in their area. He explained:

“This innovative system gives us more ammunition with our distributors. We have three distributors interested, but if we have numbers to prove interest from fans, it gives us more bargaining power. The fans literally can bring the film to a cinema near them if there are enough votes! As of right now, there are 202 American cities and 7 different countries that want ‘Beyond’ to screen in a theater in their community! And this is without a trailer! We are working on a trailer and it will be presented, however numbers are starting to grow on buzz alone!”

And, Dane said, the “Bring It” button is also on the film’s Facebook page. He also had a special message to O’Connor’s fans:

“I know Renee and Xena fans. I have spoken to a lot of you and understand your passion and love for Renee. I cannot wait for you to see her in this powerful performance. I have seen rough edits of the film and it is very dynamic. It is emotional, intense and compelling. I look forward to sharing with you all!”

The film also stars Todd Terry, Cheramie Leigh, Barry Corbin, Lou Beatty Jr. and more. It was written and is directed by Andrew Librizzi, and is co-produced by Dane and Sally Helppie.

And by the way, the Dallas Metro area is leading, by a big margin, in the “Bring It” vote count.

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Finally, the ROC interview is online

O'Connor as wellsI know it has taken much longer than I said it would, but the story from my recent interview with Renee O’Connor is now available online here.

And just to try and make up for the delay, here is one more photo of Renee as Maureen Wells in “Beyond the Farthest Star,” the movie she has been filming here in North Texas over the last month.

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