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WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressman Steve Scalise can hope to make an "excellent recovery," his trauma surgeon said Friday, even though the lawmaker arrived at the hospital Wednesday at imminent risk of death after getting shot at a congressional baseball practice.
In his first public comments since the shooting, Dr. Jack Sava of MedStar Washington Hospital Center said it's a "good possibility" that the Louisiana Republican will be able to return to work in his full capacity.
Sava declined to put a timeline on when that would happen or when Scalise, 51, would be able to leave the hospital. The doctor described how a bullet from an assault rifle entered Scalise's hip and traversed his pelvis, shattering blood vessels, bones and internal organs along the way.
For now, Scalise remains in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, arrived at the hospital via helicopter in shock, with intense internal bleeding and "an imminent risk of death," Sava said.
Since then, the lawmaker has undergone multiple surgeries and procedures to stop the bleeding and repair bone. He has been sedated, but has been brought out of sedation periodically and been able to recognize and communicate with his family, Sava said.
Scalise has received multiple blood transfusions, which can affect clotting, something doctors will monitor closely. Infection also is a risk, especially if the intestines were perforated.
Scalise was wounded when a gunman opened fire at a GOP lawmaker baseball practice Wednesday morning. The fact that his injuries brought him close to death was not widely known initially.
Sava said Friday that there are hundreds of bullet fragments in Scalise's body, but "we have no intention to try and remove all the bullet fragments at this point."
Damage from a bullet occurs when it's traveling. Once it has lodged in bone or muscle, "it's not going to do anything. All you're doing is stirring up more trouble" by making another incision larger than the fragment to try to get it out, explained Dr. Deborah Stein, trauma chief at the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center.
Nonetheless, said Sava, "We fully expect him to be able to walk" and "hopefully run."
Sava said that after being released from the hospital, Scalise "will require a period of healing and rehabilitation."
"I feel a lot more confident and a lot more optimistic than I did two, three days ago," Sava said. "I think that his risk of death right now is substantially lower than when he came in ... he was as critical as you can be when he came in."
Sava said Scalise would need to undergo an additional operation within the next 48 hours and more beyond that.
Sava later told The Associated Press that Scalise's care is on track for someone with such a severe injury but that he still faces many risks to recovery.
Sava said he told Scalise's family that "I am not declaring victory until he's playing ball in his back yard with his family."
Several other people were also injured in Wednesday's shooting before Scalise's security detail and other police officers gunned down the assailant, who later died. The shooter was an Illinois man, James Hodgkinson, who had lashed out against President Donald Trump and Republicans over social media.
Speaking earlier Friday in Miami, Trump said Scalise "took a bullet for all of us" when he was shot.
The president's meaning was not entirely clear, but Trump went on to say that "Because of him and the tremendous pain and suffering he's now enduring — and he's having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought — our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important.
"So we all owe Steve a big, big thank you," Trump added.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., paid a visit to his injured colleague at the hospital Friday.
Scalise's wife, Jennifer, issued a statement saying she was thankful for the "incredible amount of prayers and warm wishes" the family has received since the shooting.
Law enforcement officials proceeded Friday with their investigation of the attack at a suburban Virginia park, including examining Hodgkinson's social media activities and his home in Belleville, Illinois. They released photos of guns similar to the handgun and rifle that were used in the attack, which officials have said were purchased legally.
Hodgkinson contacted both of his state's Democratic senators frequently, always through email links on their websites, spokesmen said Friday. The offices of both senators — Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth — turned over the emails to Capitol Police and declined to offer specifics about their content.
Hodgkinson also contacted the office of Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., at least 10 times over the past year, a Bost spokesman has said, characterizing the emails and phone calls as negative but not threatening.
Also suffering relatively minor injuries were two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and House GOP aide Zack Barth. Griner remains hospitalized at MedStar Hospital after getting shot in the ankle, and Sava described her in good condition.
Bailey was spotted Friday in the Capitol, on crutches and out of uniform, accepting congratulations from fellow officers.
Lobbyist Matt Mika was shot multiple times and critically injured and remained hospitalized.
Associated Press writer Maria Danilova and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.