Volume. 12233

Malala faces a long road to recovery, doctors say
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An ambulance carrying Malala Yousafzai leaves Birmingham international airport on October 15, 2012.
An ambulance carrying Malala Yousafzai leaves Birmingham international airport on October 15, 2012.
A British hospital official says the 14-year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in northern Pakistan faces a long road to recovery. 
On Monday, Malala Yousafzai was flown into Britain for specialist care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after Pakistani doctors said she needed treatment for a damaged skull and “intensive neuro-rehabilitation,” Press TV reported.
On October 9, Malala was shot by TTP militants in the town of Mingora for speaking out against the extremists and promoting education for girls and women in the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 
“Doctors… believe she has a chance of making a good recovery on every level,” said Dr. Dave Rosser, Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s medical director. He added that Malala’s treatment and rehabilitation could take months. 
“We do unfortunately have very extensive experience of dealing with this sort of traumatic bullet related injury,” Rosser added. 
“Our experience with battle casualties, and you can deal with her as a battle casualty from a physiological point of view, is that patients need lots of different specialties,” he stated. 
A day after she was shot, a bullet which hit Malala's skull was removed by surgeons in Peshawar. She was later transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi for more specialist treatment. Malala has been unconscious throughout her ordeal, relying on a ventilator to breathe. 
A Pakistani military spokesman in Rawalpindi said she would require “prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of the trauma that she has received”. That is likely to include the partial rebuilding of her skull and “intensive neuro-rehabilitation,” he added. 
Doctors are optimistic that Malala's age is in her favor. Unlike adults, the brains of teenagers are still growing and better able to adapt to trauma.
Teens also are generally healthier and their bodies have a stronger ability to react to the disruption that the injury causes, said Dr. Jonathan Fellus, chief scientific officer at the New Jersey-based International Brain Research Foundation, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. 
“It helps to be young and resilient to weather that storm,” he said. “Because her brain is continuing to develop at that age, she may have more flexibility in the brain.”
There's also a psychological aspect to why youngsters have a better shot at recovery. While injured adults often mourn the loss of what they had, teens don't know what they are missing.
“They have an amazing capacity for hope,” Fellus said. In Malala's case, her strong personality would also help her recover, he added.
Still, doctors cautioned that it is impossible to say how Malala will do without knowing the path of the bullet and what damages it caused, details that have not been released.
“The brain is like real estate,” said Dr. Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. “Location is everything.
“Based on the information we have, it appears that Malala was shot from the front down diagonally, but we don't know what part of the brain the bullet went through, whether it crossed the midline and hit any vessels, or whether the bullet passed through the right or left side of the brain.”
But both physicians say it is extremely unlikely that a full recovery can be made. They could only hope that the bullet took a “lucky path” — going through a more “silent”, or less active — part of the brain.
“You don't have a bullet go through your brain and have a full recovery,” Fellus said.
In 2008 and 2009, the TTP banned female education in the Swat Valley, depriving more than 40,000 girls of education. TTP militants destroyed hundreds of schools in the valley during a campaign of violence over the course of the two years, which led to a dramatic decline in the number of girls enrolled in schools in the region. 
In 2009, Malala rose to fame for writing about life in the Swat Valley under the TTP. She later received Pakistan’s National Peace Award for bravery and was also nominated for an international children's peace award. 
Last week, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that the militants attacked Malala because she was anti-Taliban, adding that she would not be spared. 
“She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas,” he said, referring to the main ethnic group in northwest Pakistan and southern and eastern Afghanistan. 
Most members of the Afghan Taliban and the TTP come from the Pashtun community. It is a society where there is great opposition to education for females and a very low level of literacy.

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