BOSTON (CBS) – As Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hugged President Obama at the State of the Union address, a speech-language pathologist here in Boston was watching with tears in her eyes. Dr. Marjorie Nicholas, an Associate Professor at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, spent two weeks working with Giffords in October.

Dr. Nicholas says it was an intense period of speech and language therapy. “It was extremely exciting,” she says. “As the rest of the world has seen with Gabby, she is a very inspiring person. It was a great honor for me to be able to work with her and be part of her rehabilitation.”

Dr. Nicholas says Giffords has a condition called Aphasia, a language disorder caused by an injury to the brain. The left side of Giffords’ brain, which is associated with language, was injured when she was shot one year ago.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

Dr. Nicholas says, “Even within a very short time frame, we could see that he had a very rapid learning curve.There were things she would improve upon in a very short time.” She says Giffords wanted to work with them as long as possible every day. “She is a remarkable person, she is very determined; she tries really, really hard.”

Some people have said after 18 months, patients with Aphasia will plateau, and their injury will halt. But Dr. Nicholas says that’s not the case. “There is no plateau,” she says. “I really don’t believe that. I think that is a false notion.

“My experience working with people with Aphasia, and I’ve been working with them for more than 20 years, is that that really isn’t true. Everybody continues to improve really for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Nicholas says she can see why Giffords has so many close friends, and has inspired people from both sides of the aisle.

“She’s really charming. You can see why she makes friends so easily.” She says she respects Giffords’ decision to resign from Congress, but she believes she will achieve her goal to return to public service.

Dr. Nicholas says, “What we’ve all learned from her is you gotta fight, and you’ve gotta have hope.”


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