Malala: 'I'm feeling better' after skull surgery

Monday, February 4, 2013 - 7:33am

LONDON — Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenager who defied Taliban attackers to promote education for girls, says she's "feeling all right" after two weekend surgeries.

Doctors attached a titanium plate to her skull and implanted a cochlear device to restore hearing to her left ear.

"I'm happy that both of the operations are successful," she said Monday from her bed at a Birmingham hospital. "I can walk a little bit and I'm feeling better."

She hopes to be fully recovered in about a month, she said.

Malala "has no long-lasting brain injuries" after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last October, her brain surgeon, Dr. Anwen White, said Monday.

"She won't need any further surgery," White said.

The five-hour operation took place Sunday at a Birmingham hospital. After surgeons attached the titanium plate and inserted the implant, the 16-year-old Malala was "very focused and enthusiastic," White said.

Shortly after the shooting, Malala's brain swelled dangerously, so doctors in Pakistan extracted a section of her skull about the size of a hand. Otherwise, the pressure in her cranium would have caused severe brain damage, likely killing her. Doctors then temporarily implanted the skull piece in her abdomen -- a common procedure to preserve bone fragments for later use.

The skull piece would have no longer fit properly without the addition of some titanium parts, as her head and the bone fragment have changed.

Titanium also has a low incidence of infection and can be handcrafted to near perfection, doctors said.

On Saturday, before the surgery, Malala credited her survival to "the prayers of the people."

"Because of these prayers, God has given me this new life and I want to serve and I want every girl, every child to be educated," she said.

"She's already talking about furthering her cause," said the hospital's medical director, Dr. Dave Rosser. The terrorists have said they will target her again.

Malala had become deaf when gunfire from the attack broke the delicate bones that help turn sound into sensory impulses to the brain.

The cochlear device will not allow her to hear completely naturally, Rosser said. But it will restore enough function to the damaged ear to allow her to hear things such as an approaching car, which obviously is important for safety.

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