Roona Begum - the Indian girl whose head had swollen to twice its usual size - undergoes 'perfect' surgery in New Delhi

Surgery which was donated after viral pictures, but the baby will still require lots of medical care

The 15-month-old Indian girl whose life-threateningly swollen head was in pictures sent around the world has undergone "perfect" surgery in New Delhi.

Roona Begum, from the village of Jirania Khola in India's remote north-east, had her picture taken by a press photographer last month. She suffers from hydrocephalus, an illness which causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain, inflating the skull.

Local doctors told Roona's 18-year-old father Abdul Rahman she would have to go to a better-equipped hospital. The labourer - who earns 150 rupees (£1.80) a day - and Roona's 25-year-old mother Fatema Khatun knew they couldn't afford to.

The rest of Roona's body couldn't keep up with her head's growth. She couldn't crawl, sit up or roll over, and the skin on the base of her head was infected because of restricted blood flow. She was severely malnourished, and couldn't see much because her expanding head had forced her eyes to recess deep into their sockets.

The most common treatment for hydrocephalus involves inserting a shunt to drain fluid away from the brain and towards another part of the body, where it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

The circulation of Roona's photographs by AFP provoked well-wishers to contact the agency and offer donations. Upon seeing the pictures, two Oslo-based college students launched an online appeal which raised £34,000.

India's Fortis Healthcare group flew the family over 1,000 miles from their home in Tripura state to its facility near New Delhi so that Roona could receive life-saving surgery.

Leading Indian neurosurgeon Sandeep Vaishya, the head of neurosurgery at Fortis hospital, donated his services for free, examining Roona to see if surgery would be possible.

Three days after she was admitted, doctors pierced Roona's scalp and drained fluid from her head into a bag. Nearly two weeks after they began the draining process, her head's circumference had dropped from 94 to 69 centimeters, with three litres of fluid drained.

Her pupils are now visible, her hair thicker, and she can open her mouth more easily.

During an hour-long operation, Vaishya made a series of incisions along the right side of her head and stomach and then used a drill to pierce her skull before inserting a shunt, catheter and valve. The shunt system would drain the fluid out of her head and towards her abdomen where it could be absorbed into the bloodstream.

It was "perfect" surgery, he told AFP, adding that it was "too early to say what the quality of her future life will be like." She would need "extensive physiotherapy" and plenty of nutrition, he added. "Her body will have to grow strong so she can learn to sit up and move about and live a normal life."

"We will remodel her skull, move the bones and fix them with plates to reduce her head size so she can grow normally," he said.

Rahman said he wanted to "thank the doctors, the well-wishers, everyone who has been on this journey with my family".

“The day her head looks normal, then I will feel like I can relax a little, I will know then that we have won our fight."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk