LONDON: Malala Yousufzai’s first thought was “Thank God I’m not dead” as she woke up terrified in a British hospital after a Taliban gunman shot her in the head, according to extracts from her autobiography published in the Sunday Times newspaper.
But the 16-year-old said she was unable to talk, had no idea where she was and was unsure even of her own name when she emerged from a coma after six days.
In the extract from her book ‘I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban’, which is to be published on Tuesday, Malala said she remembered almost nothing of the attack itself.
The last thing she recalled on Oct 9, 2012, the day she was shot, was sitting with her friends in a school bus as it rounded an army checkpoint in the militancy-hit Swat Valley.
Friends told her that a masked gunman came on board the bus, asked “Who is Malala?” and then lifted a gun to her head and fired. Her friend said Malala squeezed her hand.
“I woke on Oct 16, a week after the shooting. The first thing I thought was, ‘Thank God I’m not dead’. But I had no idea where I was. I knew I was not in my homeland,” she wrote in the extract published by the British newspaper.
Malala said she tried to speak but there was a tube in her neck, while her left eye was “very blurry and everyone had two noses and four eyes”.
“All sorts of questions flew through my waking brain: where was I? Who had brought me there? Where were my parents? Was my father alive? I was terrified.
“The only thing I knew was that Allah had blessed me with a new life.”
A doctor gave her an alphabet board and she spelled out the words “country” and “father” — her father was headmaster of the school that Malala had attended in Swat.
“The nurse told me I was in Birmingham, but I had no idea where that was… The nurses weren’t telling me anything. Even my name. Was I still Malala?”
After the shooting a Pakistani military neurosurgeon had carried out an emergency operation in which a section of her skull was cut out and placed under the skin in her stomach until it could be replaced in her head.
Malala was then flown to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham for further treatment. In Britain, Malala said her head ached so much that injections failed to stop the pain, her left ear kept bleeding and she could feel that the left side of her face was not moving properly.
Malala said that in Britain she enjoyed watching the cookery show Masterchef but did not like the film ‘Bend it Like Beckham’, saying she asked nurses to turn it off because she was “shocked when the girls took off their shirts to practise in sports bras”.
She enjoyed halal fried chicken and the British cheese potato snacks Wotsits.
Her parents were finally able to get to Britain 16 days after the shooting and Malala said it was the first time she was able to cry since she was shot.
“All that time alone in hospital I hadn’t cried even when I had all those injections in my neck or the staples removed from my head. But now I could not stop. My father and mother were also weeping,” she wrote.
“It was as if all the weight had been lifted from my heart. I felt that everything would be fine now.”