The first publicised picture of Malala Yousafzai who is being treated for gunshot wounds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
London, Oct. 19: Malala Yousafzai is becoming quite a celebrity at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she stood up tentatively today with the help of doctors and communicated with them with messages scribbled in Urdu.
The team of specialist doctors felt confident enough to release the first photographs of the Pakistani girl in her hospital bed, alongside a teddy bear. Her age has been updated to 15. The Pakistan Taliban have clearly shot themselves in the foot for heart-felt messages of support and gifts for Malala are pouring in from well wishers across the world.
But the Taliban very nearly managed to kill her — had the bullet, which grazed her brain, had a slightly different trajectory, even by a whisker, her injury would have been “unsurvivable”.
The doctors struck just the right balance between optimism and realism by confirming she is out of danger but “it’s clear that Malala is not out of the woods yet”.
“Having said that, she is doing very well,” added Dr Dave Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, at an open air news conference today.
“In fact, she was standing with some help for the first time this morning when I went in to see her.”
Such is the global interest in the little girl that the hospital is having to issue two medical bulletins a day.
, something not even done for royalty. Appreciating the hunger for news about her, Malala, who can move her arms and legs, has encouraged the medical team to brief the world press.
“Malala is keen that I thank people for their support and their interest because she is obviously aware of the amount of interest and support this has generated around the world,” said Rosser.
She consented to her photographs being released. “It’s a very difficult position for her, clearly, because she has gone from being on a school bus and the next thing she will be consciously aware of is being in a strange hospital in a different country. She seems to have understood why she is no longer in Pakistan and what has happened to her.”
Malala has the potential to make “pretty much a full recovery” but may not undergo reconstructive surgery until she is stronger. She cannot yet speak because of a tracheostomy tube. “Her airway was swollen by the passing of the bullet, so in order to protect her airway she had a tracheostomy tube. She is not able to talk, although we have no good reason to think that she wouldn’t be able to talk once this tube is out, which may be in the next few days. She is communicating very freely, she is writing.”
Forensics suggest she was shot from above at point-blank range. “Malala was struck just above the back of the left eye. The bullet went down through the side of her jaw, damaging the skull and the jaw joint on the left hand side... went through the neck and lodged in the tissues above the shoulder blade. “The bullet grazed the edge of her brain. Certainly if you're talking a couple of inches more central, then it's almost certainly an unsurvivable injury.”
An ordeal that awaits her is that she will have to face the media when the time is right — probably an army of over 100 reporters, photographers and cameraman. For now, she is being shielded by doctors and round the clock security.
The bullet, which was removed by surgeons in Pakistan, “went down through the side of her jaw, damaging the skull and the jaw joint on the left hand side... went through the neck and lodged in the tissues above the shoulder blade,” Rosser revealed. “The bullet grazed the edge of her brain. Certainly if you're talking a couple of inches more central, then it’s almost certainly an unsurvivable injury.”
Instead of penetrating her skull, the bullet travelled underneath the skin along the whole length of the side of her head and into her neck. Shockwaves caused by the bullet are thought to have shattered the thinnest part of Malala’s skull, driving fragments into her brain. A titanium plate or a piece of her own bone may be used to perform the reconstructive surgery, which will not take place until after a period of rehabilitation and that could take weeks or even months.She is receiving “one-to-one nursing care, 24 hours a day” at the hospital which is equipped to deal with soldiers injured in Afghanistan.
Encouraged by Malala’s actions in standing up to the Taliban, a group of local Muslim women mounted a vigil in Birmingham yesterday. They lit candles and held “I am Malala” banners.Labour councillor Mariam Khan, who represents the Washwood Heath area of Birmingham, said: “Everybody should have the right to freedom and we are standing in solidarity with Malala. Education is one of the key things that take people forward. I went to school and I went to university and to think that there are people fighting just to go to school puts things into perspective.”
There is also an online message board that has attracted postings from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, the United States and many other countries. One from Hamna Ali in Pakistan read: “You are such an inspiration for all the girls in Swat and Pakistan.......the whole nation is standing behind you."
Another repeated the theme: “Your extraordinary bravery and advocacy for education has touched millions of hearts throughout the world, mine among them.”