ISLAMABAD - Malala Yousafzai was flown to the United Kingdom for neurosurgical treatment at one of Britain’s leading hospitals in an air ambulance on Monday, a day after the physicians treating her at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) recommended the patient’s treatment abroad.
A sophistically equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government took Malala to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a noted trust run by UK’s National Health Services (NHS) where British soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan are treated.
A spokeswoman of British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed the media of Malala’s arrival at the Birmingham Airport at 1450 GMT (7:50pm, according to Pakistan time). An ISPR statement said an intensive care specialist from the army accompanied Malala on her flight.
According to a Pakistan Army brigadier, the parents of the young patient and her uncle, Faiz, travelled to the UK to accompany Malala during her treatment there. The officer said that patient’s two brothers would stay in Rawalpindi along with other family members under army’s protection.
Also, due to security concerns Malala’s departure after daybreak from Islamabad Airport was not announced until the plane was airborne. Asked if Malala will be guarded at the Birmingham hospital, Cameron’s spokeswoman said: “You wouldn’t expect me to talk about security matters in detail but certainly security has been taken into account.”
A statement from the British High Commission in Islamabad quoted British Foreign Secretary William Hague as saying: “Last week’s barbaric attack on Malala Yousafzai and her school friends shocked Pakistan and the world. Malala’s bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all.” It said that further details were not being released for reasons of patient confidentiality.
According to the media release, Foreign Secretary Hague said: “Malala will now receive specialist medical care in an NHS hospital. Our thoughts remain with Malala and her family at this difficult time.” He said: “The public revulsion and condemnation of this cowardly attack shows that the people of Pakistan will not be beaten by terrorists. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.”
The Nation had reported on Sunday that two leading neurosurgeons in Islamabad, whom the AFIC authorities had consulted for the expert opinion on Malala, had recommended her surgery abroad. This newspaper had also reported that the doctors were expected to decide on Malala’s treatment abroad on Sunday evening following the passage of 72-hour time period since she was brought to the AFIC from the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar last Thursday after been shot in the head by a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist in Mingora (Swat) on Tuesday.
The ISPR statement said all expenses including transportation of Malala and her treatment abroad will be borne by the Government of Pakistan. Describing her present condition as ‘optimal’, it said that the medical team treating Malala was ‘pleased’ with her condition. “The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to a UK centre which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury.”
“It was the view that if Malala was going to be transferred overseas to a centre which could provide the required integrated care, then it should be during this time window whilst her condition was optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in. Malala’s family was consulted and their wishes were also taken into consideration,” the media release said.
A surgeon at the AFIC said that Malala had a skull fracture above the temporal region that was easily treatable compared to the other forms of head injuries, much severer in nature. “An injury in that part of the head can be treated with ease, particularly when you compare it with haemorrhage resulting due to excessive bleeding that could lead to blood clotting known as haematoma in medical terms,” he said.
The neurosurgeons at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would decide whether to conduct craniotomy on Malala, the AFIC official said. Craniotomy, according to him, is a delicate surgical procedure performed on a patient with seriously fractured skull.