School girl activist shot by Al Qaeda stands, speaks

Posted at 7:28 AM, Oct 19, 2012

LONDON (CNN) — Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai stood up for the first time Friday morning and is “communicating very freely,” according to the director of the UK hospital she is undergoing treatment.

Malala can’t talk because she has a tracheotomy tube inserted, but she is writing coherent sentences, hospital director Dave Rosser said.

She “is not out of the woods yet” but is doing very well, he added.

The latest progress report — more detailed than previous updates — suggests that the schoolgirl shot after she defied the Taliban by insisting on the right of girls to go to school could make a good recovery.

There “is certainly physical damage to the brain” from the bullet that entered Malala’s head, he said, but she appears to be functioning well intellectually and has the motor control to stand.

“Whether there’s any subtle intellectual or memory deficits down the line, it’s too early to say,” he said.

She is being treated for signs of infection probably related to the path the bullet took through her body, from above her left eye, through her jaw and down to her shoulder, he said.

MRI scans show that the bullet grazed the side of her brain, he said, although in such cases, most of the damage tends to be caused by shock waves from the shot.

The 15-year-old has been able to listen to her father on the phone although she cannot speak because of the tracheotomy tube, he added.

She is likely to spend another couple of weeks recovering before doctors consider reconstructive surgery on her skull and jaw joint.

Rosser said Malala agreed that the hospital in Birmingham could share more details of her medical situation with reporters.

The attack on the schoolgirl in the northwestern district of Swat last week, which left her battling to recover from her injuries in a hospital in Britain, generated a wave of shock and anger in Pakistan and around the world.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the act, but they didn’t appear to have anticipated the level of revulsion and condemnation that it would provoke.

Thousands of people joined in rallies across Pakistan in support of the wounded teen, and calls have grown for a strong response from the government.

Authorities are investigating the attack and say they have made a number of arrests.