Brave Pakistani Girl Making Strong Recovery In England
Hospital director: "We don't think she has significant brain damage."
October 27, 2012LONDON (CNN) -- The father of the Pakistani teen whose love of learning led the Taliban to shoot her expressed gratitude Friday for the help she has received.
"Last night when we met her, there were tears in our eyes and they were out of happiness, out of happiness," Ziauddin Yousufzai told reporters at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham the morning after reuniting with his 15-year-old daughter, Malala.
Malala was flown to the British facility on October 15 -- six days after being shot in the head at point-blank range while on her way home from school.
Yousufzai described his daughter's survival as a "miracle for us" and choked up as he recalled having started at one point to think about planning her funeral.
"She is not just my daughter, she is the daughter of everyone, she is the sister of everyone," Yousufzai said, speaking a day after he, his wife and two sons arrived in Birmingham, England, to see her.
Yousufzai spoke of how Malala had become an education rights activist at an early age, and in so doing had become an international symbol of courage.
He said he is "thankful to the media of Pakistan ... because it is very difficult to stand by a girl who stands up against terrorism. ... They were warned by the terrorists but still they kept on supporting my daughter."
He also expressed gratitude to the British and Pakistani governments, the latter of which is paying for her treatment. And he thanked medical teams in both countries for the care they have provided. "She got the right treatment, at the right place, at the right time," he said.
Yousufzai, who was accompanied at the news conference by Malala's 12-year-old brother, detailed the days since Malala was shot in her hometown of Swat.
She was initially taken to an area hospital, then transferred to a hospital in Peshawar and on to Islamabad, undergoing surgery to remove part of her skull so that her injured brain could swell unimpeded.
By the time Malala was flown to Britain, doctors had placed her in a medically induced coma.
"She was in a very bad condition," her father said.
"She is lucky to be alive," Dr. Dave Rosser, the medical director of University Hospitals Birmingham, told reporters.
But he described Malala's prognosis as "excellent."
She does not appear to have suffered significant brain damage, he said. "There's no real areas of concern, at this stage," he added.
He said she is tired, but "managed a big smile" when she saw her family. The teenager is able to breathe on her own, her father said.
Rosser said Malala can walk "with very little help, just a nurse's arm on her elbow for support, and she "appears to have very good memories of both the last few days of her care and events prior to this incident," he said.
But he said hospital staffers have not asked the girl about the shooting itself. "Asking people to relive the memories increases the chance of post-traumatic stress," he said.
On Friday, the girl was to undergo blood tests and tests on her hearing and vision, "just to make sure that we're not missing anything," since the bullet entered her skull above her left eyebrow, he said.
Rosser said an infection that had troubled doctors last week has cleared.
Once Malala has regained strength, doctors will reconstruct her skull either by replacing the fist-sized piece of bone that they removed in Pakistan, or with a titanium plate, Rosser said.
In addition, doctors may operate on her jaw, he said.
"She shouldn't need to be in hospital for more than a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at the most," he said.
Malala has been thinking about school during her recovery, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after meeting with her family Thursday.
"The mission she has taken forward and the education awareness that has spread across Pakistan is all Malala's doing," he said, according to PTV. "Our entire nation should be proud of her love for the soil of her country."
When Malala returns to Pakistan, he said, "we will provide her with complete security, despite anyone's refusal, to ensure that something like this never happens again. The attack on Malala was a mindset of people who don't want to see this country progress."
Rosser said he would not discuss any security precautions the hospital may be taking.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting in the conservative Swat Valley but don't appear to have anticipated the level of condemnation it would provoke.
Thousands of people in Pakistan and elsewhere have attended rallies and vigils honoring her courage and praying for her recovery.
Malala initially gained international attention in 2009, writing a blog about her life as the Taliban gained a foothold in her home region of Swat, a Taliban redoubt in northwest Pakistan, near Afghanistan.
CNN's Laura Smith-Spark, Jonathan Wald and Shaan Khan contributed to this report.