Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, PEOPLE confirms, as friends, family and colleagues continue to rally around him after he was shot and wounded last week during baseball practice.
“Doctors are happy with the progress he’s made,” Scalise’s press secretary, Lauren Fine, tells PEOPLE. “But his doctors said he will be in the hospital for some time.”
Scalise, (R-La.) the third-ranking GOP leader in the House, was one of four people shot when a gunman opened fire early Wednesday morning while the Republican team practiced in Alexandria, Virginia, for the annual bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game.
When Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) found out that his close friend and colleague was among those who had been shot, “I just didn’t think it could be real,” he tells PEOPLE.
“There were other members there that morning who were shot at who are lucky and blessed to be alive,” he says. “A lot of folks have been affected by this. It’s shaken everyone up in a serious way.”
Scalise, 51, was shot in the hip by a bullet that ripped through his body, causing severe damage to internal organs, his doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Friday.
While he was able to speak while he lay injured on the field, he suffered massive blood loss and went into shock, which left him in “imminent risk of death” upon arriving at the hospital via helicopter, his doctors said Friday.
Since Wednesday, he has undergone several surgeries, MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement released on behalf of his family.
On Saturday, he underwent yet another surgery, MedStar said.
“He continues to show signs of improvement,” the statement said. “He is more responsive and is speaking to his loved ones.”
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During a press conference on Saturday, Scalise’s trauma surgeon, Dr. Jack Sava, said he is expected to recover fully but will need “a period of healing and rehabilitation” after being discharged.
Besides Scalise, congressional aide Zach Barth, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, and US Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner were shot during the rampage. Capitol Police officer David Bailey and Texas Rep. Roger Williams were also injured during the incident.
Bailey was injured from bullet fragments while exchanging fire with the shooter, Fine says.
The gunman, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, died from injuries he sustained during a shootout with police on the scene.
‘Team Scalise’ Rallies for Its Beloved Leader
While Scalise continues to recover, a tight-knit group of family, friends, and colleagues continue to hold vigil at his bedside and at the hospital.
“Everyone is hopeful,” says Fine.
Since Wednesday, Scalise’s wife, Jennifer, his sister and other family members, close friends from Louisiana and colleagues have packed into a waiting room in the hospital.
Scalise’s high-profile visitors have included Pres. Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and fellow Congressman Cedric Richmond, (D-La.)
As those gathered at the hospital dined on ‘southern comfort food’ like Chik Filet and other goodies sent to the hospital by well-wishers, Jennifer Scalise and her sister-in-law greet visitors with hugs.
“They are a warm family,” says Fine.
So is his work family, says McHenry.
“Working with Steve makes you part of his family,” says McHenry.
Adds Fine: “People are very loyal to him. And he is loyal back to them. We are Team Scalise.”
Known to “just dive big into life,” Scalise started to feel more like himself on Saturday, when he cheered for his alma mater Louisiana State University’s baseball team on Twitter, saying, “Tigers win! Tigers win!”
On Sunday, Scalise’s Twitter account featured a Father’s Day message thanking well-wishers for their “outpouring of love” and giving a special nod to his family.
“Steve’s greatest joy is being a father to Madison and Harrison, and a husband to Jennifer,” the message read. “This Father’s Day has special meaning for the Scalise Family, and they send their best wishes to every family, especially the dads. Take the time to be close to the ones you love.”
Like many others, McHenry continues to pray for Scalise, saying he has the strength to pull through this ordeal.
“He’s the guy who finishes up at 3 in the morning and you see him at 6 in the morning back again and always has the same sort of optimism and happiness,” he says.
“I describe him as a tank,” he says. “He is just tough.”