Page last updated at 22:45 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 23:45 UK

Bullet found in cheek 12 years on

Bullet hole in glass (file pic)
Mrike Rrucaj was hit by the bullet while lying in bed in her house

An Albanian woman shot in her sleep in 1997 lived for 12 years with a bullet lodged in her cheek without knowing it until it showed up on an X-ray.

Mrike Rrucaj was injured while lying in bed at a time of civil strife in Albania in 1997.

But doctors told her the bullet passed straight through her cheek and simply patched up her wound.

The truth was discovered a week ago when she collapsed in pain, and the 2.8cm-long bullet was eventually found.

"I was covered in blood and my husband took me to casualty where there were many people injured," she told Albania's Ata news agency of the 1997 incident.

"But the doctor told me the bullet had come out and cleaned the wound.

"I was 28, and did not feel a thing for 12 years."

At the time of the shooting, Albania was wracked by civil violence and anger over fraudulent pyramid schemes, with gunfire common and injuries all too common.

Fatos Olldashi, chief neurosurgeon at Albania's military hospital, did not blame his colleague for not being more attentive in 1997, when an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were killed.

"The unique thing about this case is not the operation, but the fact she kept it unknowingly for 12 years in her head," the surgeon told Reuters news agency.

The doctor who treated Ms Rrucaj had, he suggested, worked in different times.

"It is easy to judge the doctor now, but it was quite different back in 1997. He thought it had come out," he said.

"And they were treating seriously injured people, not someone standing up and talking to them."

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