Final operations for 'remarkable' Malala

Malala with nursing staff

A “remarkable” teenage girl shot in the head by the Taliban is to undergo surgery for what doctors hope is the last time.

Malala Yousafzai, 15, is to have a custom-made titanium plate fitted to her skull and a cochlear implant to help her recover hearing in her left ear.

Dr Dave Rosser, medical director at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust in England, where Malala is receiving treatment as an out-patient, said both procedures were routinely carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Malala has been receiving treatment at the hospital since she was transferred there after she was shot in Pakistan by the Taliban in October last year for promoting women’s rights and education for girls.

Dr Rosser said Malala was a “remarkable young woman” who had made great progress in her recovery.

He also said she was fully aware of the threats the Taliban had made against her life, but has said she would continue to champion her cause.

“She’s not naive at all about what happened to her and the situation in terms of her high profile,” he said. “She’s incredibly determined to continue to speak for her cause.”

Both surgical procedures will be carried out within the next 10 days and will take about 90 minutes each.

Dr Rosser said it could take “between 15 and 18 months” for any hearing to recover in her left ear but added that in time she would have almost normal levels of hearing, thanks to the surgery.

Stefan Edmondson, Principal Maxillofacial Prosthetist at the trust, explained how the plate would be fitted over a hole in Malala’s skull, which has been left by the path of the bullet.

It was also revealed that the damaged portion of missing skull had been implanted in Malala’s abdomen – where it remains – in case it was needed to repair her skull at a later date.

However, surgeons have now decided instead to fit the metal plate.

Dr Rosser credited the surgeons who operated on Malala in Pakistan soon after she was shot for saving her life.

He said Malala had already undergone surgery since her discharge from the Birmingham Hospital at the start of the year, to repair a facial nerve severed in the gun attack.

“The facial nerve was damaged by the course of the bullet,” he said. “The facial nerve comes under the ear, but the surgeon was able to re-route and reconnect it.

“The surgeon has managed to do that without having to take a graft from another nerve. Malala does have a weakness in her face so the left side of her face droops, but there’s a good chance she will completely recover within 18 months.”

Dr Rosser said this could be “her last surgery” and once over, she could finally be able to concentrate fully on her rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, he said the cochlear implant will correct “complete deafness” Malala suffered after the bullet destroyed the eardrum and the tiny bones which allow sound to register.

He praised Malala’s “great sense of humour” and the fortitude with which she has dealt with her life-changing injuries.

When she was shot on October 9 last year, the bullet entered just above her left eye and ran along her jaw, “grazing” her brain. It was later removed by surgeons in Pakistan before she was flown to the UK.

Malala is now likely to secure permanent residence in the UK after her father was granted a job with the Pakistani consulate in Birmingham, as previously reported.

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