LONDON – British doctors said they will insert a titanium plate in the skull of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai to repair a hole left when the Taliban shot her for campaigning for girls’ education.
Surgeons at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central English, said Wednesday they plan to carry out the operation within the next 10 days to protect the 15-year-old’s brain.
“This is, very simply speaking, putting a custom-made titanium plate over the deficit in her skull, primarily to offer physical protection to her brain in the same way as a normal skull would,” the hospital’s medical director, Dave Rosser, said.
Malala, who was attacked in Pakistan’s Swat Valley last October as she traveled to school, has become an international symbol of opposition to the Taliban’s drive to deny women education.
Doctors say the bullet fired at point blank range by a Taliban gunman grazed Malala’s brain and traveled through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder. The attack also left her completely deaf in her left ear, so surgeons will insert an electronic device that should help her hearing return to near-normal levels within 18 months.
The surgeons in Pakistan who were the first to treat her inserted the missing section of skull into her abdomen, but it was eventually decided not to use the bone. The piece of skull will be removed, sterilized and — if she wants it — given to Malala as a “souvenir,” Rosser said.
Malala is staying in Birmingham with her parents and siblings, who have joined her in England. Her father has been given a job as education attache at Pakistan’s consulate in Birmingham.
“She is very lively, she has a great sense of humor,” Rosser said of Malala. “She is not naive at all about what happened to her and the situation she is looking forward to in terms of being a high-profile person — and potentially a high-profile target.
“But she remains incredibly cheerful, incredibly determined and incredibly determined to continue to speak for her cause.”