GOP lawmaker Scalise still critical though doctors 'encouraged'
"We are encouraged by improvement in his condition in the last 36 hours," Jack Sava of MedStar Washington Hospital Center told reporters at a news conference. "I feel a lot more optimistic than I did two, three days ago.
"When he arrived he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death," Sava said, adding that the Louisiana lawmaker is expected to be in the hospital for weeks. "His risk of death right now is substantially lower than when he came in."
Scalise, 51, is among four people shot by a gunman at a House Republican baseball practice Wednesday in the Washington suburbs. The other victims are recovering from their wounds, while the gunman died after a shootout with police.
Scalise's office released a statement from his wife, Jennifer, thanking people for their support and praising the two Capitol Police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who were injured while bringing down the gunman. "We are forever grateful for the heroism" of the officers, she said.
After additional surgeries and rehabilitation, Scalise can be expected to walk "and hopefully run," Sava said. Although "infection is a significant risk," the physician said, "an excellent recovery is a good possibility."
The doctor said Scalise has been sedated although the dosage has been turned down to allow him to respond to family members. "He clearly knows that they're there and appreciates their presence," Sava said.
Scalise probably has hundreds of bullet fragments in his body, and doctors don't plan to remove them because usually there is more risk than benefit in doing so, Sava said.
President Donald Trump visited Scalise at the hospital Wednesday night and later said in a speech, "He's a great fighter and he's going to be OK, we hope." The bullet that struck Scalise tore through his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding, the hospital said. He received multiple units of blood, said Sava, who declined to describe the exact nature of Scalise's internal injuries.
The gunman in the early morning attack at the ballpark in Alexandria, Virginia, was identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. He died later from injuries sustained in a shootout with police.
The FBI and the Alexandria Police Department said in a joint statement Thursday that federal authorities had examined the rifle and handgun recovered from the scene and determined that Hodgkinson had bought them from licensed sellers. Police are examining a cell phone, computer and a camera found in his van, according to the statement.
The House Republican baseball team had been practicing for weeks in early mornings at the Alexandria site for Thursday's annual congressional baseball game against Democratic lawmakers' team. Leaders decided the game would go on as scheduled at Nationals Park in Washington, home of the city's professional baseball team, and the Democrats won, 11 to 2. Scalise has been an avid participant in the game since arriving in Congress in 2008. As majority whip, he is the chief vote counter in the Republican conference.
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