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James Brady ‘Walked Right Into the Line of Fire,’ Doctor Says

Reagan Press Secretary James Brady Dies at 73 2:15

James Brady, the White House press secretary who was gravely wounded in the attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life in 1981, revolutionized the medical thinking on how far patients with serious brain damage can recover. But according to the doctor who treated him on March 30, 1981, Brady's greatest accomplishment was "saving the life of the president of the United States."

"He walked right in the line of fire. The very first bullet from [would-be assassin John] Hinckley was aimed right at President Reagan's head," Dr. Arthur Kobrine, the neurosurgeon who operated on Brady the day he was shot, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell on Monday.

It was devastating injury," Kobrine said. Brady was so badly wounded that "I thought he wasn't going to survive when I saw him in the emergency room, and everyone thought that."

But Brady "rewrote the medical books of neurosurgery," Kobrine said. "We always thought and taught that from a neurological injury, people improve for about a year and then level off — that what you have at a year is what you're going to be. But he threw that out the window. He was better at two years than one year and better at five years than two years."

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— Andrea Mitchell and M. Alex Johnson