There was great news coming out of a hospital in the UK as 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai stood up for the first time after being shot in the head last week by the Taliban.
Though she can’t talk because she has a tracheotomy tube in her throat, Yousafzai is writing coherent sentences and “communicating freely,” according to the director of University Hospitals Birmingham, Dave Rosser.
“We have no reason to believe she won’t be able to talk when the tube is out, which may be in the next few days,” Rosser said, adding that she “is not out of the woods yet” but is doing very well.
There “is certainly physical damage to the brain” from the bullet that entered Malala’s head, Rosser said, but she appears to be functioning well intellectually and has the motor control to stand, with help from nurses.
“Whether there’s any subtle intellectual or memory deficits down the line, it’s too early to say,” he said.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, the Taliban is so upset that they have been negatively portrayed in the press after they shot Malala in the head that they allegedly have targeted the responsible Pakistani news outlets and journalists for terror strikes.
On the day of the attack, Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said in calls to the media that Yousafzai was targeted because she generated “negative propaganda” about Muslims.
“She considers President Obama as her ideal. Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” Ihsan said.
The Taliban is mad because people are saying bad things about them for trying to assassinate a 14-year-old girl who simply wanted an education. And they want their reasoning for the attack to get higher placement in the stories. We are not making this up.
According to Rosser, Malala is aware of her surroundings in the UK hospital and appears to have some memory of what happened.
“She is keen that people share the details. She is also keen that I thank people for their support and their interest because she’s obviously aware of the amount of interest this is generating around the world,” he said.
As she regained consciousness on Tuesday, one of the first things she asked was what country she was in, he said.
“There is every sign that she understands why she’s here,” he said. “It’s a very difficult position for her because she’s gone from being on her school bus, and the next thing she will be consciously aware of is being in a strange hospital in a different country. So she seems to have understood why she is no longer in Pakistan and what is happening to her.”
Malala is speaking to hospital staff in Urdu and also seems to understand English, he said. The hospital has set up a bank account to receive donations for her.
In terms of Malala’s care, the key concern for doctors at present is to treat signs of infection probably related to the path the bullet took through her body, Rosser said.
Rosser said the bullet entered above the back of Malala’s left eye, traveled down through her jaw and into her left shoulder, lodging in the tissue above her shoulder blade, he said. Her skull and jaw were damaged by its passage. Doctors have to make sure there’s no infection along the path of the bullet.
Rosser also said MRI scans show that the bullet grazed the side of her brain, although in such cases, most of the damage tends to be caused by shock waves from the shot.
The hospital is trying to arrange for the 15-year-old to listen to her father on the phone, although she cannot speak because of the tracheotomy tube, he added.
Malala is likely to spend another couple of weeks recovering before the team of specialist doctors considers reconstructive surgery on her skull, either using a piece of bone that was initially removed or a titanium plate, Rosser said. She may also need surgery on her jaw joint in future.
“It certainly would be over-optimistic to say there won’t be any further problems, but it is possible she will make a smooth recovery,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kainat Ahmad, the 16-year-old classmate of Malala’s who was shot in the upper right arm during the attack, sent out a message to girls around the world when she spoke to journalists from a hospital in Pakistan: “I want to tell all the girls to continue their mission to get an education,” Kainat said Tuesday.
“Girls’ education here is more important than boys’ because boys can do any sort of work. However, girls can’t just do any sort of job. Girls must have respectful jobs so that they can feel secure.”
According to CNN, Kainat said she has no regrets about defying a group that wants to stop girls from learning.
“God willing, I will continue my education,” she said.