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Pakistani teen activist to have reconstructive cranial surgery

January 30, 2013|By Janet Stobart
  • Malala Yousafzai says goodbye to nurses as she leaves Queen Elizabeth Hospital in early January.
Malala Yousafzai says goodbye to nurses as she leaves Queen Elizabeth Hospital… (Queen Elizabeth Hospital…)

LONDON -- Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban after campaigning for the rights of women and girls for an education, will undergo her final cranial surgery in a few days, her British doctors told reporters Wednesday.

The medical director of Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth hospital, where Malala has been treated since mid-October, outlined in a televised news conference the complex cranial reconstruction procedure.

Malala, 15, gained online fame through the blog she began as an 11-year-old schoolgirl about attending school in an area of Pakistan's Swat Valley under strict Taliban rule, which bans girls from receiving a secondary education.

The blog was transmitted via the BBC and she quickly received wide attention and status as a young campaigner for girls’ rights. In October, Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her at point-blank range.

After emergency treatment in Pakistan, she was flown to Queen Elizabeth, which specializes in treating military casualties. She was discharged Jan. 3 and is due for what doctors hope will be her last cranial reconstruction procedure.

David Rosser, the medical director, said that within the next 10 days she will undergo cranial reconstruction to repair the left side of her skull, which was shattered by a bullet. She had previously undergone surgery as an outpatient “to repair the left facial nerve, which was damaged by the course of the bullet,” he said.

In a coming procedure she will receive a cochlear implant, Rosser said, noting: "The passage of the bullet destroyed both her eardrum and the middle ear and the tiny bones within the middle ear.” 

Malala is currently deaf in her left ear but should recover her hearing after complex implant surgery.

Rosser paid tribute to the emergency treatment performed by the Pakistani hospital as well as to the teenager herself for her determination.

“Her recovery is remarkable and it’s undoubtedly a testament ... to her resilience and her strength," he said. "There’s also no doubt that the surgery performed in Pakistan was lifesaving. Had that first operation not been to such a high standard she wouldn’t have survived.”

There should be no long-term damage such as the kind often resulting from head injuries, he said.

"She’s not naïve at all about what happened to her," he said, but Malala is "incredibly determined to speak for her cause.” 

Tributes have poured into a hospital website opened for goodwill messages from well-wishers and supporters, many asking for her candidacy for the next Nobel Peace Prize. 

Since her recovery in the Birmingham hospital, she has been joined by her immediate family. Her father, Ziaududdin Yousufzai,  has been appointed education attaché at the Pakistani consulate  in Birmingham.


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