LONDON: Malala Yousufzai shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education is to return to a hospital in Britain for surgery to reconstruct her skull. The 15-year-old was discharged from the hospital earlier this month to spend time with her family after her initial treatment phase.
Her doctors said on Wednesday she would return to hospital within the next 10 days to undergo surgery known as titanium cranioplasty to repair a missing area of her skull with a specially moulded titanium plate.
The attack on Malala at point blank range as she left school in Mingora drew international condemnation. She has since become a symbol of resistance to the Taliban’s efforts to deny women education and other rights. More than 250,000 people have signed online petitions calling for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.
British doctors who treated Malala say the bullet hit her left brow but instead of penetrating her skull, travelled underneath the skin along the side of her head and into her shoulder.
The shock wave shattered the thinnest bone of the skull and the soft tissues at the base of her jaw were damaged. The bullet and its fracture lines also destroyed her eardrum and the bones for hearing, rendering her deaf in her left ear.
She is being cared for in a specialist department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Dave Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, said a procedure to insert a cochlear implant to restore her left side hearing and the complicated skull reconstruction surgery would be carried out by a team of 10 doctors and nurses.
The skull will be repaired with a 0.6mm plate moulded from a 3D model created using imaging data from Malala’s skull.
The cranioplasty, which is expected to take between one and two hours, will be carried out first, followed by the cochlear implant operation, which should take around 90 minutes, Mr Rosser said in a statement.
“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,” Mr Rosser said at a press conference.
Surgeons in Pakistan who were the first to treat Malala before she was brought to Britain inserted the missing section of her skull into her abdomen, but it had eventually been decided not to use the bone. “The safest way to store that bone, to keep it sterile and healthy, is in the patient’s body, so they will make an incision in the skin and tuck it into the abdomen,” he said.
“Surgeons in consultation with Malala have decided that fitting this titanium plate is a better long-term procedure than trying to re-implant the bone after such a long period of time.”