Malala Yousufzai, Pakistani girl shot by Taliban, to have surgery in U.K. to cap skull with titanium plate

Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old girl who was shot at close range in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan, reads a book at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England.
AP Photo/Queen Elizabeth Hospital, File

BIRMINGHAM, England Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old girl shot in the head by the Taliban for demanding education for girls in Pakistan, is preparing for what will likely be her last surgery at a British hospital.

Medical director at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth hospital, Dr. Dave Rosser, spoke about the surgeries she has already undergone and said that Malala has recovered remarkably well.

Rosser said the next step, a titanium cranioplasty, will take place within the next 10 days. Doctors will fit a titanium plate over the missing area of Malala's skull, shattered as the bullet passed between her skin and bone. Only skin and dura, a fibrous membrane, now cover her brain between her left eye and ear.

A cochlear implantation will also be fitted into a small well drilled behind her skull, restoring the hearing in Malala's left ear.

A gunman boarded Malala's school bus as she headed home in October last year and shot her at point blank range in the head.

Doctors in Pakistan saved her life immediately after the attack, but she was flown to Birmingham in northern England for further treatment.

"Had the first operation not been at a high standard, she wouldn't have survived," said Rosser.

A small part of Malala's skull was removed and implanted in her abdomen during the emergency surgery, to alleviate cranial swelling but keep the extra bone so doctors could later replace it. But Malala's family and doctors decided the titanium plate was a better option as it could lower her risk of infection.

Doctors will remove the bone from her abdomen and give it to Malala, who has asked to hold onto it as a keepsake.

The Pakistani government is paying for her treatment in the U.K.

Malala won a peace prize in 2011 and had already become something of an international figure for her work on the BBC's Urdu language service writing about life under the Taliban.

Her story of defiance and survival against the odds has highlighted the suppression that many women in Pakistan still suffer in areas where the Taliban and other Islamic extremist organizations hold huge sway.

"She's determined to continue to speak for her cause," said Dr. Rosser.

This story was written by Maria Alafouzos in the CBS News London bureau