Malala’s skull bone still sits on her bookshelf to remind her of Taliban attack Malala Yousafzai (Photo: CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/AFP via Getty Images).
MALALA Yousafzai said she has preserved a surgically removed skull bone as a reminder of the horror she went through after she was shot by a Taliban insurgent in Pakistan nine years ago.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who survived the brutal attack as she received intensive medical care in the UK, revealed that the skull bone “still sits on the bookshelf”.
As the Taliban took control of Afghanistan by force earlier this month, Malala, 24, recounted the moments when a bullet from the Taliban militant’s gun grazed her face and how she felt about hundreds of thousands of Afghans who now face an uncertain future.
“Nine years later, I am still recovering from just one bullet. The people of Afghanistan have taken millions of bullets over the last four decades. My heart breaks for those whose names we will forget or never even know, whose cries for help will go unanswered”, she wrote in a blog posted on Podium.
Malala recalled the moment she opened her eyes in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for the first time after the attack, having no idea that then that she was airlifted from Pakistan to the UK.
She could not speak and when she looked in the mirror, “I recognised only half of my face. The other half was unfamiliar”, she wrote, referring to her head half-shaved for surgical reasons.
“I touched my abdomen; it felt hard and stiff. I asked the nurse if there was a problem with my stomach. She informed me that when the Pakistani surgeons removed part of my skull bone, they relocated it in my stomach and that, one day, I would have another surgery to put it back in my head.
“But the UK doctors eventually decided to fit a titanium plate where my skull bone had been, reducing the risk of infection, in a procedure called a cranioplasty. They took the piece of my skull out of my stomach. Today it sits on my bookshelf,” she wrote in the blog.
The doctor added a cochlear implant where the bullet had destroyed her eardrum and treated her facial paralysis that had distorted her appearance.
Malala, who campaigns for girls’ education and their rights, said she received facial graft treatment in Boston.
“In 2018, the doctors first removed a nerve from my calf and inserted it into my face, running from the right side to the left. In 2019, they took a tissue from my thigh and implanted it into the left side of my face. They hoped that the nerve would attach to the tissue and begin sending signals to muscles in my face”.
Malala said as she was recovering from her latest surgery, she watched the news of the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan.
She also wrote how her “best friend” narrated the moment when she was shot in her school bus in north-western Pakistan.
“You stood still and silent, staring into the face of the Talib as he called out your name. You held my hand so tightly that I felt the pain for days. He recognised you and started firing. You covered your face with your hands and tried to bend down. A second later, you fell into my lap”, she quoted her friend as having told her.
Two of her classmates were shot in the hand and the arm and “the white school bus went red with the blood”, Malala wrote.
She said she could not survive the 2012 attack but for the attention of the international media and support from thousands of people who prayed for her and who held placards reading “I am Malala”.
If some international media outlets did not know her name when she was speaking against the ban on girls’ education, “my story might have ended in a local news item: “15-year-old shot in the head,” she wrote.