Los Angeles: Doctors have said the condition of the US congresswoman shot in the head by the Arizona gunman had improved sufficiently that she was no longer regarded as "critical”.
"US Representative Gabrielle Giffords has been upgraded to serious condition from critical because she is no longer on a ventilator," the University Medical Centre in Tucson said in a statement. "The congresswoman continues to do well. She is breathing on her own."
Two of the other 12 people wounded in the January 08 shooting remain in hospital and are in good condition, the hospital said, adding that there would be a full press briefing on all three patients on Monday.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told US television on Sunday she had visited Giffords the previous day and found her "doing great" and "making progress every day”.
Giffords is "using both sides of her body. She`s able to breathe on her own. She`s able to open her eyes and to show people she understands what she`s hearing and seeing," Gillibrand told NBC`s "Meet The Press" program.
"It`s an extraordinary amount of progress for a woman who sustained such a horrific injury," she added.
Another congressional colleague, US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, said she also was heartened after a visit Saturday at Giffords` bedside, to see her improving.
Giffords "continues to make very good progress. And neurologically, she`s in good shape -- a little bit better shape every day”, the Florida legislator told CBS television`s "Face the Nation" program.
"This is a woman who has the grit and the will and determination, more than anyone that we know," Wasserman Schultz said.
"We were just really overjoyed to be able to be there for our friend and help to urge her on to come back to us, to her family, to her constituents."
The 40-year-old Giffords has survived despite being shot through the head from point-blank range.
On Saturday, doctors performed a tracheotomy to replace Giffords` breathing tube, freeing her from having to use a ventilator. Surgeons also inserted a feeding tube, the hospital said.
Gillibrand said she was in the hospital room when Giffords opened her eyes for the first time on Wednesday, minutes after President Barack Obama visited.
"If there`s anyone in the world that will recover fully from this kind of crime and just unbelievable injury, it`s her," the New York senator said.
"She`s got courage. She`s got drive. She`s got spirit. And I really think her courage is inspiring to all of us right now."
Six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, died in the shooting outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was holding a public event with her constituents.
Accused gunman Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old local resident, is in custody and has been charged with murder and the attempted assassination of a US lawmaker.