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Pakistan girl who defied Taliban nearing end of surgeries

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A very brave Pakistani teenage girl who dared to pursue education against the wishes of her nearby Taliban - and almost died as a result, is nearing the end of her surgeries in the United Kingdom. Malala Yousafzai has only two more surgeries to endure; a metal plate in her skull to repair the damage bullets caused, and an inner ear implant.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A gunman shot Malala in the head and neck in October as she rode home from school in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Islamist extremists from Tehrik-e-Taliban wanted to kill her for taking a stand for in education for young women and girls. The terrorists vow that they will try to kill her again.

Fifteen-year-old Malala's brain swelled dangerously days after the shooting. Pakistani doctors extracted a section of her skull, the size of a hand. Surgeons said that the pressure in her cranium would have caused severe brain damage, killing her.

"There is no doubt that the surgery performed in Pakistan was life-saving," Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, U.K., said.

Malala faced her ordeal with bravery and has made impressive physical strides, Rosser said. "She's very lively. She's got a great sense of humor," he said.

Malala is also highly aware of her high profile in the world and what it could mean for her safety. "She remains incredibly cheerful, incredibly determined and incredibly determined to speak for her cause," Rosser said.

Malala is limited in what she can do with the patch in her skull missing. Her brain is vulnerable to injury, if she bumps her head in the wrong way. Only her skin and soft cranial tissues stand between the outside world and her brain.

Doctors could have covered the breach with the original piece of her skull, which she has carried under her skin since October, where a surgeon in Pakistan implanted it for safe keeping, a common procedure.

Malala's own skull section would have no longer fit properly without the addition of some titanium parts, as her head and the bone fragment have since changed.

Titanium also has a low incidence of infection and can be handcrafted to near perfection. "It was Malala's final decision," Rosser said. She picked the titanium plate.

Rosser says that "the bone will be removed from under the skin in her stomach and cleaned up and sterilized and given to Malala," who will keep it as a remembrance.

Malala will also receive a cochlear implant to restore hearing to her left ear. The gunfire broke the delicate bones that help turn sound into sensory impulses to the brain.

The device will not allow her to hear completely naturally but will restore enough function to the damaged ear to allow her to hear in three dimensions, which is important for safety, enabling her to hear such things as an approaching car.

She recently had surgery to reroute a facial nerve that was damaged in the attempt on her life, leaving part the left side of her mouth listless.

"There is a very good chance after this procedure that within a year to 18 months, this will completely recover," Rosser said.

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