In the wake of the shooting spree that struck down Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, many wonder not only how she survived a point-blank bullet to the head, but also how her brain injury recovery will look in the coming days, months, and years.

This week, Brain surgeon Jamie Bradbury of Senata Virginia Beach General Hospital explained to Virginia readers how lucky Giffords was to survive her attack – and what a long road she has ahead as she navigates life after a serious brain injury. Giffords is lucky to be alive, Bradbury explained, because the bullet entered and exited on the same hemisphere of her brain, and also because she had a expert team of doctors who cut away part of her skull to allow her brain to swell without causing pressure in the head.

Also, because she was wounded on the left side of her brain, Giffords’ recovery will probably involve regaining motor skills on her left side as well as regaining the ability to speak or process language.