Taliban victim Malala 'beat the odds to live' – and now she’s standing


Jerome Taylor
Saturday 20 October 2012 02:35

Doctors treating the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen have unveiled how close she came to dying, detailing how the bullet that struck her failed to penetrate her skull.

As pictures of a heavily bandaged but fully conscious Malala Yousafzai lying in a Birmingham hospital bed were beamed around the world today, doctors revealed the incredible odds that the 15-year-old managed to overcome since she was shot 10 days ago.

Dr Dave Rosser, medical director at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital said: "The bullet grazed the edge of her brain, certainly if you're talking a couple of inches more central, then it's almost certainly an unsurvivable injury."

Those treating the teenager said that despite being struck at point blank range, the bullet followed an astonishingly lucky trajectory, striking her left brow and travelling under her skin into her neck.

The shockwave from the bullet caused small pieces of her skull to break off into her brain but she otherwise managed to avoid a potentially fatal cerebral injury.

The shooting of Yousafzai, who publicly campaigned for the right for women to go to school, caused international headlines and widespread revulsion in Pakistan against the brutality of its home grown Taliban movements.

A local Taliban group in the Swat valley which operates out of neighbouring Afghanistan claimed to have organised the hit but, as criticism of their actions mounted in Pakistan, al-Qa'ida's media wing, a prominent Uzbek militant group and Pakistan's largest Taliban network Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also issued justifications for her shooting.

Militants view the young girl with contempt because she has publicly encouraged women to be educated, something the more socially conservative elements of the Taliban view as "western thinking" and theologically unacceptable.

After surviving the attack she was initially treated in Pakistan by doctors who removed the bullet from her neck. But on Monday she was flown to Britain to receive specialist medical attention from doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham who have detailed experience in dealing with gunshot wound victims.

Doctors treating the young shooting victim announced yesterday that Malala had been brought out of a medically induced coma and had been able to stand and write. But they warned she was still at risk and is currently battling an infection.

"She's not out of the woods yet," said Dr Dave Rosser. "Having said that, she's doing very well. In fact, she was standing with some help for the first time this morning when I went to see her."

The doctor confirmed that she was currently unable to speak because doctors had to perform a tracheotomy to ensure that she could breathe. But she has been able to communicate with staff through writing.

"We have no reason to believe that she would not be able to talk once this tube is out, maybe in the next few days," he said.

Asked whether she faced any long term physical impact from the attack he replied that scans have revealed some physical damage to her brain, but "at this stage we're not seeing any deficit in terms of function."

He added: "She seems able to understand. She's got motor control, she's able to write. Whether there's any subtle intellectual or memory deficits down the line is too early to say. It is possible she will make a smooth recovery, but it is impossible to tell I'm afraid."

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