April 10, 2009 / 1:58 PM / 10 years ago

Albanian unknowingly had bullet in head for 12 years

TIRANA (Reuters) - An Albanian woman went around for 12 years with a bullet lodged below her cheekbone without her noticing it, the woman said Friday.

Mrike Rrucaj told Reuters she was shot in her sleep in 1997 at a time when the Balkan country was plagued by anarchy and chaos amid protests against fraudulent pyramid schemes, but a doctor said the bullet had passed through her. At the time many Albanians fired bullets into the air in frustration.

“I was covered in blood and I thought I had been killed,” Rrucaj said of the incident in 1997. “The doctor at the hospital said the bullet had gone in and come out and he just cleaned the wound. I was 28, and did not feel a thing for 12 years.”

But one week ago she collapsed from pain when she bent her neck and an X-ray revealed the bullet, which was 2.8 cm long.

“The unique thing about this case is not the operation, but the fact she kept it unknowingly for 12 years in her head,” said Fatos Olldashi, chief neurosurgeon at Albania’s military hospital.

He did not blame his colleague for not being more attentive in 1997, when an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were killed.

“It is easy to judge the doctor now, but it was quite different back in 1997. He thought it had come out. And they were treating seriously injured people, not someone standing up and talking to them,” he said.

Reporting by Benet Koleka, editing by Adam Tanner

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