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A Republican supporter holds up a sign supporting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood side by side to shout: “Let’s play ball!” and the crowd chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the game began. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts(reuters_tickers)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, has shown improvement in the past 36 hours after being shot by a man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice earlier in the week, his lead surgeon said on Friday.
"The congressman's status remains critical," Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told reporters. "An excellent recovery is a good possibility."
Scalise, 51, sustained injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding after being shot in his left hip on Wednesday morning on a baseball field in a Washington suburb.
Scalise had been at "imminent risk of death" when he was first brought into the hospital on Wednesday, and he received many units of transfused blood, Sava said. The congressman's risk of death was now substantially lower because doctors have controlled the bleeding and his vital signs have stabilized.
Scalise, who has had two surgeries, will need additional operations and will be in the hospital for "a considerable period of time, presumably weeks," Sava said. Because the bullet shattered, there may be hundreds of fragments in Scalise's body and doctors do not intend to try to remove them all, Sava said. He declined to describe specific internal injuries.
Once recovered, Scalise will be able to walk and hopefully run, the doctor said. He said doctors have turned down Scalise's sedation levels enough that he has been able to respond to visiting family members.
Scalise, a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were wounded on Wednesday when a man identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, opened fire on the lawmakers as they practiced for an annual charity baseball game between Republicans and Democrats. Hodgkinson died after being shot by police.
The FBI said that the shooter's weapons found at the scene - a 9mm handgun and 7.62mm calibre rifle - had been legally purchased. The FBI continues to process evidence in an effort to assess the potential motivations of the shooter, the agency said in a statement Friday.
Hodgkinson had a history of posting angry messages against Trump and other Republicans on social media.
Members of Congress took the field at Washington's Nationals Park on Thursday night for the charity baseball game, many wearing hats to honour Scalise, who has represented Louisiana in the House since 2008.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Trott)