Meet the girl who had a BULLET lodged in her brain for a YEAR and lived to tell the tale.

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‘Tenneh Cole’ Immi Calderwood  Tenneh Cole (right) and her aunt Mariama

Miracle child Tenneh Cole was just four years old when she was shot in the head by a Kalashnikov-wielding rebel as he stormed through her village in Sierra Leone. 

Many of her family were killed and her home was devastated in the savage attack, but tiny Tenneh managed to escape with her life.

Incredibly, the rebel’s bullet became lodged in her brain and she lived for almost a year before the horrifying injury was discovered.

Survivor: Tenneh Cole was just four years old when she was shot in the head, as armed rebels stormed through her home village in Sierra Leone. Pictured, Tenneh with her aunt Mariama
Survivor: Tenneh Cole was just four years old when she was shot in the head, as armed rebels stormed through her home village in Sierra Leone. Pictured, Tenneh with her aunt Mariama

 

Innocent: As the rebels laid waste to her village, killing and maiming at random, Tenneh managed to escape and was discovered, terrified and bleeding, by a young couple who were also able to flee
Innocent: As the rebels laid waste to her village, killing and maiming at random, Tenneh managed to escape and was discovered, terrified and bleeding, by a young couple who were also able to flee

Today, she is a 25-year-old woman planning to open her own business as a seamstress.

‘Tenneh says she was so small when it all happened and has forgotten so much,’ said her aunt Mariama Mansaiy, 53, from their home in Freetown.

‘She speaks very little and can only sign a bit. But she says she remembers almost nothing of the horrors when she fled her village and came to England.’

As the rebels laid waste to her village, armed with assault rifles and machetes and killing and maiming at random, a young couple discovered the terrified and bleeding Tenneh.

They treated the wound on her head and covered it, believing she had been hit on the head with a rock, before taking her with them to the nation’s capital city, Freetown.

Once there, she spent the next 12 months at the Brickworks Refugee Camp as the wound healed over.

Miracle: The little girl lived for almost a year with the bullet lodged in her brain, before she began complaining of headaches. Pictured, Tenneh leaves the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for the last time in the arms of Nursery Nurse Kathleen Symon
Miracle: The little girl lived for almost a year with the bullet lodged in her brain, before she began complaining of headaches. Pictured, Tenneh leaves the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for the last time in the arms of Nursery Nurse Kathleen Symon

Horror: Tenneh was given an x-ray after she started complaining of headaches. The technician had expected to discover some damage from what they believed was a wound caused by a rock. But they were stunned to discover the bullet lodged behind her right eye
Horror: Tenneh was given an x-ray after she started complaining of headaches. The technician had expected to discover some damage from what they believed was a wound caused by a rock. But they were stunned to discover the bullet lodged behind her right eye

But it was only after she had been rescued by British charity Hope and Homes for Children that Tenneh began complaining of severe headaches and was taken for an x-ray at a local clinic.

‘The technician had been expecting to see some damage caused by the blow from the rock,’ said Caroline Cook, who runs the charity alongside her husband Mark.

‘He fell off his seat when he saw a heavy rift bullet sitting upright behind her right eye.’

It is believed the bullet had been fired into the air and penetrated the top of Tenneh’s young head as it fell, entering her front right brain lobe and settling in the optical cavity behind her eye.

Immediately Tenneh was airlifted out of war-torn Sierra Leone and flown to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for an emergency operation.

Doctors didn’t expect the tiny, wounded child to survive the traumatic surgical procedure.

Symbolic: Tenneh has kept the blue headscarf that she was wearing when she was shot as a child, which still has the ragged hole where the bullet entered her head
Symbolic: Tenneh has kept the blue headscarf that she was wearing when she was shot as a child, which still has the ragged hole where the bullet entered her head

 

Support: Hope and Homes for Children worked with former EDP deputy editor James Ruddy (pictured with Tenneh and Mariama) to raise the funds to get Tenneh to the UK for her life-saving operation
Support: Hope and Homes for Children worked with former EDP deputy editor James Ruddy (pictured with Tenneh and Mariama) to raise the funds to get Tenneh to the UK for her life-saving operation

But now, 20 years later, Tenneh has just finished her tailor training at a technical college near her home and hopes to launch her own business as a seamstress with the help of UK charity Street Child.

‘I have helped keep her away from dangers over the years as much as possible,’ continued her aunt Mariama.

‘There was the war, then Ebola and also so many awful things that can happen to young women like her.

‘We go to the local Catholic church and she has her prayers and the Bible. So I do my best to keep her on the straight road amid so much poverty here and desperation.

‘She loves films and is always wanted to go to friends’ houses because we have no TV or DVD player.

‘But I can’t let her out on her own in the dark. It’s just not safe. These streets can be dangerous and so many young girls and women fall by the wayside.

Hard-working: As well as helping her aunt around the house, Tenneh has trained to be a tailor at the technical college near their home in Freetown and wants to launch her own seamstress business
Hard-working: As well as helping her aunt around the house, Tenneh has trained to be a tailor at the technical college near their home in Freetown and wants to launch her own seamstress business

‘She is a very quiet girl but has a strong will. She likes to read science text books, eat rice with cassava and help me in the home with cooking and cleaning.

‘She is a good, good girl. She is our miracle of hope.’

As a symbol of her miraculous survival, Tenneh has kept the blue headscarf that she was wearing when she was shot – complete with jagged bullet hole.

But the bullet didn’t leave Tenneh entirely unharmed, and she suffers from profound deafness as well as being unable to talk fluently and being blind in her right eye.

Tenneh is still being supported by Street Child, which campaigns to help girls and young women remain in education despite the pressures of Ebola, poverty, teenage pregnancy, gender discrimination and prostitution.

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