GABBY – Finding her voice again

by Bev Foster

Part 1 – Special series on Music and the Brain Gabrielle Giffords’ story is deeply moving and illustrates human determination, excellent medical care, love and support of a family and the hope of a nation. On Monday night, ABC aired a News Interview hosted by Diane Sawyer with Gabby Gifford and her husband Mark Kelly. We became eyewitness to the remarkable recovery of Gabby Giffords. On January 8, 2011, Democrat Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords and members of her staff were holding a public event called Congress On Your Corner outside a Safeway store in Tucson, Arizona. A bystander in the crowd began to shoot indiscriminately killing 6 people and critically injuring Congresswoman Giffords. The bullet entered Giffords’ brain on the left side, moving from back to front. In most people, the left side of the brain controls their right-sided strength and sensation, as well as the ability to understand and speak, including the ability to understand commands. Giffords suffered from aphasia, the inability to speak because of damage to the language pathways in her brain's left hemisphere. Neuroplasticity tells us that although the established pathway to language has been ambushed, the brain is able to forge new pathways around the damaged areas. Music therapy has played a pivotal role in Giffords’ recovery. By layering words on top of melody and rhythm, Gabby has trained her brain to use a less-traveled route to the same destination. Meaghan Morrow from the TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehab Hospital in Houston, and Giffords’ music therapist, compared the process to a freeway detour. A brain injury specialist, she has demonstrated how music is that other road to get back to language. I am inspired by this story and am grateful to Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords for making the recordings of some of her therapy sessions public. It demonstrates convergence of extraordinary care, competent medical interventions, faith that overcomes, hard work and the healing power of music. Gabby Giffords: Finding Words Through Song