Top US Republican lawmaker Steve Scalise remains hospitalized in critical condition after being shot this week but he has improved, his surgeon said Friday as he expressed optimism about the legislator's prospects for recovery.
"The congressman's status remains critical," Jack Sava, director of trauma at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
"We are encouraged in the improvement in his condition in the last 36 hours. We have controlled his internal bleeding and his vital signs have stabilized," he added.
"I feel a lot more optimistic than I did two or three days ago."
But Scalise still faces multiple surgeries, a prolonged hospital stay and a lengthy recovery, Sava stressed.
Scalise, the number three House Republican, was shot along with three other people early Wednesday when a lone gunman, angry about President Donald Trump, attacked a group of Republican lawmakers as they practiced for a congressional charity baseball game.
The game went ahead as scheduled Thursday, in an emotional display of bipartisan unity. Trump addressed the players by video message, hailing Scalise's courage.
The president spoke about the 51-year-old from Louisiana again Friday during a speech in Miami.
"My dear friend Steve Scalise took a bullet for all of us," Trump said.
"He's having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought," he said, adding that he hoped the country could become more unified in the aftermath of the shooting.
Doctor Sava described Scalise's shot to his left hip as a devastating "trans-pelvic gunshot wound" from a high-velocity rifle.
The round fragmented into hundreds of pieces and did "substantial damage" to bones, internal organs and blood vessels, Sava said. But he stopped short of providing specifics of Scalise's internal injuries.
Scalise arrived at the hospital in a critical state, facing "an imminent risk of death," Sava said.
"His risk of death right now is substantially lower than when he came in."
Scalise has remained under sedation, although doctors have lightened the medication at times so that the congressman can communicate with relatives.
As for rehabilitation, Sava said he believed Scalise will be "able to walk and hopefully run" in the future.
Two other victims -- US Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner who was shot in the ankle, and lobbyist Matt Mika who was shot in the chest -- also remain hospitalized.
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