Schoolgirl shot in head by Taliban will have titanium plate fitted over hole in skull and cochlear implant to restore hearing
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on her school bus in Pakistan, is to undergo surgery for what doctors hope will be the last time.
The teenager, who was shot in October after advocating girls’ education, will return to the Birmingham hospital where she underwent emergency surgery last year after being transferred from Pakistan.
She is to have a custom-made titanium plate fitted to her skull and a cochlear implant to help her recover hearing in her left ear.
She is expected to be out of hospital within “two to three days” of surgery, said Dr Dave Rosser, medical director at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. Once it was over she would finally be able to concentrate fully on her rehabilitation, he said.
She has already undergone surgery since her discharge from the Birmingham hospital at the start of the year to repair a facial nerve severed in the gun attack.
“Malala does have a weakness in her face so the left side of her face droops, but there is a good chance she will completely recover within 18 months,” said Rosser.
He praised her “great sense of humour”.
Malala is now likely to secure permanent residence in the UK after her father was granted a job with the Pakistani consulate in Birmingham.
Rosser described her as a “remarkable young woman” who had made great progress in her recovery.
She was fully aware of the threats the Taliban had made against her life, but said she would continue to champion the cause of women’s rights, he said.
“She’s not naive at all about what happened to her and the situation in terms of her high profile. She’s incredibly determined to continue to speak for her cause,” he said.
The schoolgirl has become a globally recognised symbol of girls’ education and other women’s rights in the face of Taliban oppression, and there have been calls for her to be nominated for a Nobel peace prize. She first came to public attention in 2009 when she wrote an anonymous diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban in her home town of Mingora in the Swat valley, north-west Pakistan.
Doctors in Birmingham have previously described how the bullet hit her left brow but travelled along the side of her head and into her shoulder rather than penetrating her skull.
Both surgical procedures are expected to be carried out within the next 10 days, and will take about 90 minutes each. It could take “between 15 and 18 months” for any hearing to recover in her left ear but in time she is expected to regain normal levels of hearing, said Rosser.
Stefan Edmondson, principal maxillofacial prosthetist, said the titanium plate would be fitted over a hole in her skull that had been left by the bullet.
It was also revealed that the portion of missing skull had been implanted in Malala’s abdomen – where it remains – in case it was needed to repair her skull at a later date. But surgeons have now decided instead to fit the metal plate.
Rosser credited the surgeons who operated on Malala in Pakistan soon after she was shot for saving her life.